October 14, 2016
Australia's Future Frigate Competitors - Strengths and Weaknesses
Australia's Future Frigates may well require a 48 (or more) cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System partly to hurl Tomahawk land attack missiles (the above VLS system has 64 cells).
While Australia's 12 Future Submarines is the most expensive Australian shipbuilding project it must be remembered that actual building of them will only commence around 2026.
The 9 Future Frigates will perhaps be the second most expensive Australian shipbuilding project. Significantly Frigate building may start in 2020 after the winning contractor (drawn from the shortlist of three) is selected in 2018 (or earlier).
So today I'm commenting on some of the likely strengths and weaknesses each of each of the 3 shortlisted Frigate competitors:
The Frigate Project remains wide open, noting DCNS being chosen for Australia's future submarine surprised most.
It is then difficult to pick whether the UK Type 26 GCS, Italian FREMM or modified Navantia F100 will win. Australia has been associated with Navantia so much (3 AWDs, 2 LHDs and 2 future replenishment ships) that there may be competition enhancing benefits if Navantia was not chosen again.
The UK Type 26 Gobal Combat Ship (GCS)'s comparatively under-developed design (and more uncertain pricing situation) add to risks for Australia.
- these ships for the UK RN will not have been commissioned until several years after Australia's
2018 decision point.
- the UK RN wants less Type 26s than expected - so the unit price will rise.
- the initial design has the advantage of having the 48 VLS Australia may well want.
- uncertainties over the UK RN and UK shipbuilding revenue/budget following BREXIT may be a
higher risk negative for Australia.
- against that the UK may offer a low price for export or foreign build Type 26s given the UK's
post-BREXIT trade uncertainty.
The Italian Fincantieri FREMM Frigate (also see wiki right sidebar) is already a working ship design with 5 Italian FREMM frigates active (including 4 ASW versions).
- has a 6,900 tonnage with long endurance and other capabilities.
- this FREMM has efficient engines for the long ranges Australia faces.
- the Italian Government is far more progressed in planning and funding its FREMM than the UK
Gov with the Type 26.
The Navantia F100 derivative has hull commonality with Australia's AWDs meaning risk reduction for Aus. That 5 F100 frigates have already been built for the Spanish Navy also reduces risk.
- against this Australia was/is unhappy with the Navantia designed AWD going overtime, over
- may be noisier than the Italian FREMM.
- Navantia designing and successfully (half) building the LHDs for Australia (on time and budget) is
a Navantia advantage.
- but Navantia having also won the 2 x Replenishment ship contract in 2016 may give Navantia too
much market power in eyes of Australian FF selectors.
So "which competitor is better?" is wide open.
The following is a portion of the WHOLE April 18, 2016 Media Release by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and the [then one and only sole] Minister of Defence, Marise Payne.
In [...] brackets I have put in hotlinks to the shortlisted Future Frigates] :
"Prime Minister and Minister for Defence – Continuous Naval Shipbuilding
18 April 2016
The Turnbull Government is securing a sustainable long-term Australian naval shipbuilding industry.
Today the Government is announcing the build locations for 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels and up to 21 Pacific Patrol Boats, in addition to nine Future Frigates previously announced.
These three projects will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain its naval vessels. Together they represent close to $40 billion worth of investment in Australia’s future naval capabilities and our naval shipbuilding industry.
They will directly secure more than 2,500 jobs for decades to come. They will also generate thousands of additional jobs with suppliers....
First pass approval for the Future Frigates. Three designers
- BAE Systems with the Type 26 Frigate;
- Navantia with a redesigned F100
have been short-listed to refine their designs. The frigates will all be built in
Adelaide, incorporating the Australian-developed CEA Phased-Array Radar.
The Competitive Evaluation Process is on schedule to return second pass approval in 2018, which will allow for construction to commence in Adelaide in 2020.
This program is estimated to be worth more than $35 billion, and will directly create over 2000 jobs.
See my Comments of April 18, 2016 on the Media Release. Also see this excellent ANI commentary on likely Australian SEA 5000 Future Frigate requirements.
Posted by Peter Coates