The Commonwealth has granted First Pass approval to extend the service life for Navy’s Huon Class Minehunter Coastal vessels, and Thales Australia is to deliver and support new deployable mine countermeasures (MCM) over the next 15 years.
The Head of Navy Capability, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, said the project forecast in the Defence White Paper 2016 will ensure Defence is able to provide an effective maritime mine countermeasure capability out to the 2030s.
“Minehunters play a vital role in protecting Australia’s ships, harbours and infrastructure from the threat of sea mines,” RADM Mead said.
“First Pass approval is a major milestone for this project that will see the life of the Minehunters extended to ensure there is no gap in mine warfare capability as we determine the replacement vessels.
“The Huon Class have proven highly capable, supporting Defence’s international engagement strategy through participation in exercises and operations to secure our sea lanes and disposing of WWII explosive remnants, and they will continue to serve Australia for years to come.
“In addition to its mine warfare role, the Huon Class vessels play a unique role in Defence assistance to the civil community and in 2011 provided support in response to severe flooding in Queensland, including the disposal of debris that posed a navigational hazard,” RADM Mead said.
The Australian Defence industry will be heavily involved in the future of the platforms. Negotiations are underway with Thales Australia to engage them as the Prime Systems Integrator to deliver the project. Under Thales’ lead there will be opportunities for other Australian companies to support the Minehunters through their service life.
The Huon class were built by Thales Australia, formerly ADI, and were introduced into service in the early 2000s.
With regard to deployable MCM, RADM Mead said the prevalence and increasing sophistication of sea mines means the RAN must continue to improve the way it finds and disposes of these mines.
“New autonomous and remote-controlled technologies deployed from within the maritime task force provides the opportunity to find and dispose of sea mines more safely and efficiently,” RADM Mead said.
“In the 2030s, Defence will seek to replace its specialised mine hunting and environmental survey vessels with a single fleet of multi-role vessels embarking advanced autonomous and uninhabited systems.”
RADM Mead said these newly introduced systems are the first step in realising a future capability which would allow the Royal Australian Navy to clear sea mines with minimal risk to its people and assets.
“Thales Australia Ltd will deliver and support the new equipment over the next 15 years,” RADM Mead said.
The new capability will primarily be based and sustained at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney, NSW.