International competition to build the Australian frigate fleet is about to begin after Australia changed plans for their new frigate ahead of the release of their defence white paper. The original plan detailed by former Defence Minister David Johnston, would have utilised the hull of the air warfare destroyer programme as the basis for the new class of frigate.
Australian Strategic Policy analyst Dr Andrew Davies said:
“It was a sensible decision given the destroyer hull was not really suited to the submarine hunting role of a purpose-built frigate, it was supposed to be a low-risk option but it was also more about preserving jobs than the Navy getting the warship it needs.”
The UK is the latest nation to show interest in supplying the Royal Australian Navy with a new class of frigate. The first of the new Type 26 frigates being developed for the Royal Navy is to be delivered from 2021.
Last year, a report by think-tank RAND advised that using an existing design, most likely Britains Type 26 Frigate, for the warships would be the least risky option for Australia. RAND looked at three design and build options; an off-the-shelf design, a modified off-the-shelf design and an entirely new design.
“Each option would entail different risks and implications for the acquisition process and strategy. The pure military off-the-shelf solution (which most likely would be built outside Australia) probably would entail the least design and cost risk, given that there would be an experienced builder and active supplier base.”
The Australian Defence Department confirmed no commitment would be made before the White Paper was released.
The Type 26 frigate represents the future backbone of the Royal Navy and a massive leap forward in terms of flexibility of surface vessels enjoyed by the service. It will replace the 13 Type 23 frigates of the Royal Navy and export orders are being sought after by BAE. The programme has been underway since 1998, initially under the name “Future Surface Combatant”.
The Type 26 will have Sea Ceptor silo’s on the bow and at the funnel of the vessel. Additionally, it will carry a MK 41 VLS positioned behind the Sea Ceptor silo’s, capable of launching cruise missiles. It will also house yet to be developed anti-ship missiles. Typically, the Merlin HM2 will normally be carried by the Type 26 although mission requirements may see it hosting the naval Wildcat helicopter or a helicopter up to the size of Chinook.