The preliminary construction schedule for the Hunter-class frigates involves building at least four prototype hull blocks both to qualify the new shipyard at Osborne South and to train the workforce.
The first of the prototype blocks will not be constructed to the Hunter-class design but to the specifications of the UK Royal Navy’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship – the baseline design for the Australian frigates.
“We want (designer and shipbuilder) BAE Systems to build a Type 26 block because they know how to do that, they know all the problems, they know exact widths, they know the hours that it will take, and they know the costs,” Paddy Fitzpatrick, Assistant Secretary Ship Acquisition – Surface Combatants, in CASG, told ADM.
“If we ensure we run all those through all our computer systems we qualify our welders and other workers and we ensure that all the software that keeps a shipyard in business is working in the background.
“The certainty of not necessarily building blocks that could be used for the ship but could be used to train a workforce and qualify the shipyard is a remarkable lesson from the Air Warfare Destroyer program.”
BAE Systems Australia will move into the new facilities adjoining existing infrastructure at Osborne South in July 2020 and its new subsidiary ASC Shipbuilding will start work on the first prototype block in December.
Subsequent training blocks will be built to the Hunter-class design and construction of the initial block for the first-of-type will begin in late 2022, Fitzpatrick said.
The first of the nine Hunter-class ships will be in the water around 2027-28 and after rigorous trials and evaluation is likely to be ready for service between 2029 and 2031.
Delivery of the ninth and final Hunter-class ship is currently scheduled for 2042, a drumbeat of two years per ship, but this could be accelerated if required – UK construction is predicated at 18 months per vessel.