Arms, security, and aerospace company BAE Systems Australia has completed the structural manufacturing of the first prototyping unit built for the Hunter-class frigate program.
The 217 square meter unit, comprising more than 28 tonnes of steel, has moved from the shipyard’s primary manufacturing hall into the next stage of production where it will be outfitted and consolidated (with the addition of three more units) into the first prototyping block.
This particular unit and block are located in the middle of the ship and would contain the Officer’s Accommodation. It is the first to have been blasted, cut and constructed in the company’s new Osborne Naval Shipyard.
“Osborne is one of the world’s most technologically advanced shipyards, a purpose-built modern manufacturing facility built for the digital age to deliver next generation anti-submarine warships by a highly skilled Australian workforce equipped to use Industry 4.0 technologies,” said BAE Systems Maritime Australia Managing Director Craig Lockhart.
“Critically, the manufacture of the first unit has put into practice this step-change to shipbuilding programs of the past, as our employees test the full productive capacity of the yard maximising our ability to build high quality ships through our build process utilising robotics that enable high quality welds.”
The Hunter-class frigate is a future class of frigates for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to replace the Anzac-class. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, with the first of nine vessels to enter service in 2031.
The program is expected to cost AU$35 billion and a request for tender was released in March 2017 to three contenders: Navantia, Fincantieri, and BAE Systems as part of a competitive evaluation process. In June 2018, the BAE Systems Type 26 was selected as the winner.
The Hunter-class ships will have a 8,800-tonne full load displacement and will be approximately 150 metres long. They will be equipped with an advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, a 24-cell strike length Mk 41 VLS for long-range strike weapons such as the Tomahawk, a vertical launch silo (VLS) for Sea Ceptor anti-air missiles, a 5-inch gun, and will be capable of landing a Chinook helicopter on its flight deck.
The Hunter-class frigate program supports a close partnership between the UK Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, all of whom have selected a variant of the design for their anti-submarine frigate programs, supporting greater operational, training and intelligence ties.