This morning to make the public forget the rightful sacking (sorry umm "resignation") of Australia's Parliamentary Speaker Bronwyn Bishop Australia's current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced a A$40 Billion shipbuilding program. The rather vague announcement occurred on a small radio station (891 ABC) in the city of Adelaide. The shipbuilding work may include:
- 8 "Future Frigates" possibly weighing 6,000 tonnes, to gradually replace the ANZAC class frigates in the 2020s. The Future Frigates will be multirole but with greater emphasis on ASW than the new Air Warfare Destroyers, and
- up to 20 Offshore Patrol/Combatant Vessels (OCVs) of various modular shapes and sizes also being called "Corvettes" - to replace a variety of small ship classes - weighing between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes
As part of the Bishop deflection it is apparent Abbott has brought forward the Frigate/OCV material that is to be placed in context in Australia's 2015 Defence White Paper. This paper is to be announced this month or in September.
All this increases the likelihood that Australia's future submarines will be built almost totally offshore, in Japan or Germany or France - while the combat system will be mostly designed and built in the US. Australia cannot afford the extreme extra costs of building all its warships and submarines in Australia.
The informal radio station form of announcement is calculated to provide good news for Adelaide without providing essential details or promises. Abbott's radio implication that all the shipbuilding work will be done in Adelaide will attract a posse of State Premiers, Federal politicians and major businessmen - all beating a path to Abbott's door.
Said posse will honour Abbott and be grateful when he throws some ship design, management and building contracts in their general direction. Some work will shift from Adelaidians, knowing their luck wouldn't last, off to Williamstown dockyard in Victoria and also to Western Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, ACT and Queensland. Much, or most, of the design work must actually occur overseas among major foreign contractors.
More detail is here - note that journalists have been forced to fill in the blanks with history and conjecture as we await official detail from Mr Abbott.
So far the 3 Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs) have cost 9 A$ Billion total - so the 8 Future Frigates and up to 20 OCVs will cost over A$40 Billion in today's dollars. In any case, as the Future Frigates and various OCV hulls will be continuous build, no meaningful dollar value can be put on them.
Somewhere in the background Defence Minister Kevin Andrews is playing some role in Mr Abbott's show. More concrete details are in the joint Prime Minister-Defence Minister Media Release of August 4, 2015 posted on Submarine Matters on August 5, 2015.