Australia to invest in major upgrade to its surface fleet

by | 7th March 2024 | Naval & Patrol, Warship Technology - News

Home News Australia to invest in major upgrade to its surface fleet

The Arafura class offshore patrol vessel

In February 2024, the Australian Government announced an increase in the number of warships in the Royal Australian Navy to what will be its largest fleet since the end of World War II.

But it is not only investing in more ships: it is also investing in naval shipbuilding and in new technology, in the form of new-generation optionally crewed vessels.

In an announcement that will be the envy of many other navies in which the number of surface combatants continues to decline, the Australian Government has clearly recognised that it needs to respond to evolving threats.

At the moment, the Royal Australian Navy has 11 major warships and that as a result of the new plan it will have 26, with six new Hunter-class frigates at the core of its future fleet, all of which will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, with the first of those ships delivered in 2034.

The Australian Government also announced that it will acquire 11 examples of a new general-purpose frigate, a new class of ship for the Royal Australian Navy, and six large, ‘optionally crewed’ surface vessels (LOSVs) of a type that are already in development with the US. They will operate in combination with the Hobart-class anti-warfare destroyers and in conjunction with the Hunter-class frigates. These ships in combination with the three existing air warfare destroyers will bring the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of surface warships to 26.

The plan announced by the Government will also underpin continuous naval shipbuilding at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide. The Hunter-class frigates will be built there, with the last to be completed and entering service in 2043. The replacement for the Hobart class, the new Air Warfare Destroyers, will also be built at Osborne, after the completion of the Hunter-class frigates. Together, the new programmes mean that there will be a multi-decade pipeline of shipbuilding in place for the Osborne shipyard. And, in addition, the Government is also committing to continuous naval shipbuilding in Perth, at the Henderson Naval Precinct.

Recognising that it will take time to consolidate and establish the required facilities in Perth, the need to accelerate the acquisition of new vessels, the first three examples of the general-purpose frigate will be built outside Australia, with four potential designs – from Spain, Germany, South Korea and Japan – already down-selected and a decision on which design to build to be made in 2025.

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