Sea State: future frigate contenders II
23 Mar 2015|
HMAS Sydney (IV) entered Sydney Heads for the final time as a Royal Australian Navy ship this morning, before being welcomed alongside Garden Island, by former sailors, officers and support staff. The Adelaide class frigate is scheduled to be decommissioned at the end of the year to make way for the Navy’s new fleet of Hobart Class Guided Missile Destroyers. Sydney (IV) was commissioned on 29 January 1983 and is the fourth ship to bear the name.

With ASPI’s Future Surface Fleet conference now less than a week away, Sea State this week will continue last week’s examination of design options for the future frigate fleet. We’ll also take a look at what’s happening in maritime security news—including Swedish and Japanese responses to the Australian submarine question, and some news from the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition which took place in Malaysia over the last week.

Another potential contender for the ‘MOTS/evolved MOTS’ design option is the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate.

Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates are part of a three-ship class that were developed by the Royal Danish Navy, the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization and the Odense Maritime Technology as an evolution of their older Absalon-class model. The partnering of public and private sector in the development of the design ‘significantly’ minimised program risk and production costs—the vessels reportedly being delivered for US$325m each. The Iver Huitfeldt-class were created with stealth in mind—offering a combination of reduced ‘infrared radiation, underwater noise and magnetic signature to make the ship as invisible as possible to an enemy’. The Danish frigates represent a flexible modular design contender for SEA 5000.

And looking to an ‘evolved MOTS’ option, RAN could turn to the Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers as a basis for producing a modified AWD. Considering the Hobart frigates’ construction by ASC, this option would ensure a domestic build. However, as ASPI’s Andrew Davies notes, the future frigates are to be optimised with anti-submarine warfare in mind—which the Hobarts were not, although they are multi-role vessels. As such, the changes required to meet these new requirements will ‘exceed the modifications to Navantia’s original design required to produce the Hobart-class’, making it a challenge for the Royal Australian Navy to produce a design and the required production engineering in time to benefit from continuity in the yards.

These are just some of the options that might be considered for SEA 5000. Various contenders continue to evolve their thinking. In that context, although we mentioned last week that ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems from Germany might pitch a vessel based on the Meko-600 or Class 125 frigate designs, we now understand that they’ll be unveiling some new thinking at the ASPI Future Surface Fleet conference. All the more reason to register your attendance here while tickets are still available (until close of business today).

Turning now to the news, as mentioned in Sea State earlier this month, that letter from the head of the Swedish Defense Material Administration has hit the press. The Diplomat has run a piece on Sweden’s displeasure after statements made by Australian policymakers about Sweden no longer possessing the technical expertise to build submarines, which follows the letter being published by Swedish daily Dagens Nyhter earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist has given the Swedish armed forces the go-ahead with the planned procurement of two A26 submarines from SAAB.

Japan still hasn’t responded to the announcement of the Australian government’s ‘competitive evaluation process’ for the Future Submarine project. While an unnamed executive of Kawasaki Heavy Industries has stated that there’s no way that Australia would be capable of looking after the submarines even if Japan gave them to RAN, in an East Asia Forum article Aurelia George Mulgan emphasises the benefits of a trilateral security relationship between the US, Japan and Australia which could be realised through an agreement to supply Australia with the relevant technology. ASPI’s Ben Schreer and Andrew Davies are thinking along similar lines, so watch this space.

The US’ Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower released a statement on the Department of the Navy Shipbuilding Programs last Wednesday. The statement details the allocations for the FY 2016 President’s Budget Request, which still gives significant primacy to the procurement of the four Ford-class aircraft carriers, at a cost of over $10 billion each.

It was announced at the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition that BAE Systems has been proposing upgrade packages for the Malaysian and Indonesian navies based on the UK Royal Navy’s Type 23 Capability Sustainment Programme. It was also publicised that Malaysia’s Second Generation Patrol Vessel – Littoral Combat Ship will be equipped with the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile anti-ship missiles (along with eight anti-ship missile launchers) and the MBDA VL Mica point defence missile system.

And also looking at Indonesia, The Jakarta Post has released an op-ed on why the island nation may have difficulty in realising its goal to become a global maritime axis. It argues that Indonesia’s ability to mainstream maritime issues on a global scale and to project its strategic position as the chair of IORA for the next two years will determine if its vision will be possible.

Amelia Long is an intern at ASPI. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.