Australia’s first Hunter-class frigate to be operational in 2031

The expected time frame for the first of the Australian Navy’s Hunter-class frigates is 2031, acting Prime Minister and defence minister Richard Marles revealed.

Defence minister Marles unveiled the information during the visit to BAE Systems’ shipyard in Govan, Glasgow, where British Type 26 frigates are being built. The minister visited the shipyard to see the progress on the first Type 26, HMS Glasgow.

To remind, BAE Systems received a £3.7 billion contract in 2017 for the construction of the first three vessels. Australia’s Hunter-class frigates are based on the design of the Royal Navy’s Type 26s.

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Marles stated that while the expected time frame for Type 26 frigates to be operational is 2028, the expected date for Australian Hunter-class frigates is 2031.

He also noted that “We’re obviously working with BAE Systems to see whether we can get that date sooner, but we are looking at that as the date for the first and we hope that we can get the subsequent ships in the program in the water as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s defence shipbuilding program continues to make progress at Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia with the completion of the first steel block of the Hunter-class frigates in August this year.

There are 22 blocks in each Hunter class frigate. The first prototype block, known as Block 16, weighs more than 140 tonnes and its construction involved the expertise of 35 different trades, including engineers, boiler makers, welders, fabricators and project managers.

This first prototype block (without any Hunter class design changes) would form part of the middle of the ship where there are accommodation spaces.  

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.

Over the coming period, the Hunter program will continue constructing the second and third prototype blocks.

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During the visit, Marles also noted that the country will make the announcement about the final design of Australian Navy’s new submarines at the beginning of next year.