Oct 27, 2023
The Hunter-class frigate program has been the focus of much public scrutiny – particularly around speed and capability – with some pundits labelling the program as “troubled”.
This “go-to” narrative far too often comes from those who haven’t visited the shipyard or have the context around the program.
While public scrutiny is to be expected – and rightly so – on any program that comes at expense to the taxpayer, I find that Australia is unique in how it publicly debates its defence programs.
The moniker of “troubled”, in particular, has had a huge detrimental impact to the more than 1600 employees on the program.
These are dedicated people who are working tirelessly to provide a capability – specifically selected by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) – that will provide Australia with a world-leading, highly capable and versatile multi-mission warship.
What is often missing from the commentary is that the Hunter has been designed to accommodate emerging technologies, ormenhance the warfighting effectiveness should there be a greater threat to our strategic environment.
Our engineers have already proven that the Hunter can accommodate greater than 96 vertical launch missile cells, if asked to do so.
Let me be clear, the Hunter Class Frigate Program is making strong and tangible progress. We are building the world’s most advanced naval shipyard that’s delivering ship blocks that is sector leading in quality, and we are operating digital twin simulations that are attracting the attention of even the US.
Our workforce through all this noise, has been remarkably resilient, but it is time I spoke up on their behalf. They have kept doing what they’re doing, and have been doing it well. I think many people forget what we’re actually building right here in South Australia.
Within two years we built a shipyard. We took the workforce from a couple of hundred people in a design office in the UK to a workforce of more than 1500 here in Australia. All of this throughout the Covid pandemic.
We’ve established a truly global supply chain that’s serving combat ship programs across the UK, Canada and Australia. We consistently exceed Australian Industry Capability requirements and have expressions of interest from more than 1750 Australian businesses who want to be part of the program.
We have adapted the design to include leading-edge air defence capabilities and the end result is a ship that still performs at the same speed, endurance, and stealth as originally planned, while maintaining the same length and delivering more than what is required through life margins.
Last week we completed the Preliminary Design Review, which is a technical assessment that ensures the ship design is operationally effective.
In May, the team commenced construction on the first schedule protection block. This block will be capable of being used in the first Hunter frigate.
We are working on a worldclass shipbuilding program that delivers the past and current governments’ commitment to continuous naval shipbuilding. We have built something of which all Australians should be proud.
Suggestions to move to building a different ship overseas will not deliver Australia capability any sooner.
There are no “off-the-shelf” warships available ready for Australia to purchase. Why would we as Australians, be ready to trade our jobs for overseas jobs?
The “trouble” with the Hunter Class Frigate Program is not the program – it is the lack of understanding and celebration of the exceptional work being done by Australians, for Australians.
I say this as someone who has chosen to live in this great country and who stands proud of what we are doing.