The Australian National Security Committee is thought to have selected BAE Systems Type 26 Frigate as a winner.
Local media however recently reported that the Australian cabinet has delayed the announcement while it works to include WA-based Austal into the nine-ship build-program.
Local media are reporting that the Australian Department of Defence has recommended the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship design over the Fincantieri FREMM and Navantia F5000 proposals and this was ratified by the NSC, and that a contract for the Type 26 could be one of the first of a new free-trade agreement (FTA) with the UK following that country’s exit from the EU.
The announcement had been scheduled for last week but has been delayed following the exclusion of Western Australian shipyard Austal from the offshore patrol vessel contract. It is believed that Western Australian MPs are keen for Austal to be involved in the frigate contract instead to prevent any issues with manufacturing job losses in the lead up to the upcoming federal election.
Austal has been one of Australia’s most successful shipbuilding firms in recent years. They have been responsible for the Armidale and Cape class patrol vessels used by the Royal Australian Navy and are currently building the Guardian class vessels under the replacement Pacific patrol boats program. They have also been involved in the design for the US Navy’s catamarans of the Independence and Spearhead classes.
The project, codenamed SEA5000, currently has three major competitors. BAE Systems with the British designed Type 26, Fincantieri with the Italian FREMM and Navantia with an updated version of the Spanish F100. The nine frigates are expected to start replacing the current Anzac class vessels from the late 2020s.
“If any of the successful tenderers wish to subcontract to Australian shipbuilders like Austal, we’re perfectly open to them doing so but that is a matter for the successful tender,” Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne told the ABC.