Australian Hunter-class frigate to proceed after surviving future fleet review


A scale model of the Hunter-class frigate. Photo c/o Defence Connect.

The Australian Government completed a stringent review of their planned future naval fleet, with the troubled Hunter-class frigate project escaping a call for it to be axed due to problems during its implementation.

At least six of the ships are expected to be built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and could potentially open for more ships to be built depending on the outcome of the “Future Navy” plan that is scheduled to be unveiled this month.

Under the “Future Navy” plan, the emphasis on “continuous naval shipbuilding” could benefit the Hunter-class frigate, which originally called for nine ships to be built.

Aside from replacing the RAN’s ageing ANZAC-class frigates, the new Hunter-class could fill in future requirements including for calls for more Tier 1 surface combatants, with some speculating that up to 16 ships might be built including as potential replacements to the current Hobart-class air warfare destroyers.

The Hunter-class are based on the UK Royal Navy’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship designed by BAE Systems, with modifications made to suit the Royal Australian Navy’s requirements. The ships will be built in South Australia by ASC Shipbuilding under supervision by BAE Systems Australia.

Due to these Australian-specified requirements, the ship’s dimensions and weight, as well as the cost to construct and sustain the ship have increased, which has become a reason for the project to be scrutinized by a team led by former US Navy Admiral William Hilarides.

It is believed that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may have personally advocated the project with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as the best option to compliment the upcoming AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines.

To counter calls that the current design of the Hunter-class frigates lack firepower with only having 32-cells of vertical launching systems (VLS), BAE Systems has unveiled a modified version which has 96-cells using Mk. 41 and the Mk.57 Peripheral Vertical Launch System (PVLS), and at the expense of the ship’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities including the loss of its towed array sonar and its mission bay.

The up-armed version of the Hunter-class could be implemented starting on the fourth ship of the class, subject to the Australian Department of Defence’s decision.

[1] ABC News

[2] The Eurasian Times

Australian Hunter-class frigate to proceed after surviving future fleet review Australian Hunter-class frigate to proceed after surviving future fleet review Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on February 14, 2024 Rating: 5

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