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Australia Launches First Hobart Destroyer Amidst Additional Cost Overruns, Delays

Royal Australian Navy guided missile destroyer Hobart shortly after its launch on May 23, 2015. Government of Australia Photo

Royal Australian Navy guided missile destroyer Hobart shortly after its launch on May 23, 2015. Government of Australia Photo

Australia’s state owned shipbuilder ASC launched the first of a new class of guided missile destroyer for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) last week a day after after a new government statement outlined additional delays and cost overruns in the three ship program.

The 7,000-ton Hobart (DDGH-39) entered the water at ASC’s Adelaide on May 23, days after a recently completed government audit estimated costs for the $7.2 billion program would grow by an additional $932 million and delivery of the ships — already two years late — would be an additional year late, according to joint statement made by Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Defense Minister Kevin Andrews.

“The most reliable estimates now suggest that the [Air Warfare Destroyers] project will require an additional $1.2 billion to be completed, which will have to be funded at the expense of other Defence acquisitions,” read the May 22 statement.
“The issues associated with this important program have been widely reported and were part of the legacy of unresolved issues, which the Government inherited from the previous Labor government.”

First-in-class Hobart is now slated to deliver sometime in June of 2017, second ship Brisbane in September of 2018 and Sydney in 2020.

The ships, based around the Lockheed Martin Aegis Combat Systems and includes a SPY-1D air search radar, a 48-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System capable of fielding Raytheon Standard Missile 2s and the RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM).

Also in the statement, the pair said the government would seek to bring in another contractor to help ASC complete the lagging Hobart program ahead of a larger evaluation of the RAN’s larger naval construction enterprise.

“The Government will begin a limited tender process on 29 May 2015, seeking proposals to either insert a managing contractor into ASC for the remainder of the AWD build or to further enhance ASC capability through a partnering arrangement,” read the statement.

Australia is also in the early stages of replacing its aging six Collins-class diesel electric attack boat (SSK) and a new frigate design.

“With no timeframe given for the duration of a possible partnering arrangement with ASC, the implications for industry contenders in upcoming programmes such as Sea 1000 (Future Submarine) and Sea 5000 (Future Frigate) are as yet unclear,” reported Jane’s Defence Weekly on Tuesday.

The Hobart program has been a lighting rod for political angst in Australia.

Last year, former defense minister David Johnston drew the ire of Australian ship builders when he was highly critical of the state owned ASC.

“You wonder why I’m worried about ASC and wonder what they’re delivering the Australian taxpayer? You wonder why I wouldn’t trust them to build a canoe?,” Johnston said before the Australian Senate in November.

  • Rob C.

    It’s troubling. They had a perfectly good design ready to go. It’s hard to say what going on there by just reading about it. Shipyard management isn’t handing new projects well way things read, but at same time it hard say what was driving the costs up.

    As side note, i don’t get why Holbert is being called a Destroyer with 48 tubes. In comparison you have US DDG-51 or Japan’s Kongo Class DDGs who have twice VLS tubes. For cost, hope they get their money worth out of the ships and hope they never need see them in harms way.

    • Steve Skubinna

      The RN’s Type 45 DDGs also have 48 tube VLS farms, as does the Franco-Italian Horizon class. It’s likely indicative of those respective nations’ threat assessments, but these days I would not rule out a purely fiscal restraint either.

      The AEGIS system was originally conceived as a counter to massed Soviet bomber and cruise missile attacks. The European navies probably are not anticipating heavy saturation attacks. Of course, the penalty for guessing wrong is severe.

  • Lazarus

    The Hobart is exactly the sort of ship US Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) critics are demanding the US build as a replacement for the retiring Perry class frigates. It represents a mid-range capability between the DDG 51 class and the LCS. It is nearly as expensive as the DDG and while less than half as capable. Another good reason for the US continue to build the LCS as the USN already has a mass of capable DDG 51’s.

    The Australians probably would have been better served by having the US build them 3 DDG 51’s. The previous RAN DDG’s were also a derivative of a reliable US destroyer class (the DDG 2 Adams). The production line and associated support network of the DDG 51 is already well established and would bode well for longevity of the class.

    • Michael Rich

      “We” “demand” a ship that can actually survive in a conflict. We don’t need a damned useless under armed fast attack boat, we need a frigate that can perform AAW (for point defense at least), anti-submarine warfare, and anti-mine warfare.

      The LCS isn’t for our navy, it’s something that would be good for the coast guard, but not the navy.

      • Lazarus

        Really? I served on all of the ships LCS is designed to replace; the FFG 7, the MCM, and the PC. It is a suitable replacement for all three.

        The US Navy does not need another mid-sized combatant that is too expensive for the capability (less than half that of a DDG 51) it provides. LCS is still the best choice!

        • Ken N

          So you also served on the LCS?

          • Lazarus

            No, did not serve on LCS. Served on a CG and an FF (Knox), in addition to FFG’s, a PC and an MCM.

        • Michael Rich

          How is the LCS a replacement for the Perry? The perry was equipped with Harpoon ASM’s, SM-2’s for air defense, and a Phalanx. What is the LCS equipped with? A RIM-119 with 11 missiles and a main gun.

          And just because the Australians had cost overruns doesn’t mean ours would.

          • Lazarus

            The Perry’s have not had those capabilities for over a decade. In that time, the last of the DD 963 class destroyers, the older AEGIS cruisers and now nearly all of the FFG’s have been retired. There are 113 DDG 51’s either in service or partially/totally paid for and projected to enter service. In that homogenous AEGIS fleet, there is no need for a medium capability combatant that costs 2/3 of what a baseline I/II Burke costs and has less than half of the DDG 51’s capabilities. The LCS is bigger and has greater capability than the PC’s; it will support a mine hunting capability on a better deployable hull than the current MCM, and it is an adequate replacement for the Perry’s in their current condition (without surface to air or surface to surface missile capability) as a “show the flag” and low-threat platform for missions like counter piracy. based on these conditions, LCS is a proper replacement for the degraded, retiring Perry’s.

    • Nuno V. Fernandes

      The Spaniards were able to get them at $1 billion a pop with armament included, roughly half the cost of a Burke, which isn’t bad because they have half of the weapon capability of a Burke albeit with the same class of sensors. A better deal than the LCS if you ask me. How the Aussies managed to screw up this badly is beyond comprehension.

      • Lazarus

        The Bazan’s are great ships. The Flight III DDG’s (that are essentially cruisers in all but name) come in at 2 billion, but the previous Burkes have come in at 1.5. Since the USN already has a large fleet of Burke’s a medium capability warship would be a waste of money, as it is not as capable as the Burke’s for the $$$ spent and too expensive to be produced in mass as is the LCS.

        • Rob C.

          Littoral ships are suppose to be Corvette size vessels, Aegis Frigate is too fragial and too expensive put even close to shore. It’s a anti-air vessel primarily.

        • USNVO

          When the Spanish ships cost a Billion, the DDG-51s were delivering at something like one Billion as well although direct comparisons are never easy as each nation accounts for funds differently. The second set of new build Flt2As are projected at something around $1.6-$1,7 Billion each.

  • Steve Skubinna

    This bodes ill for the Collins replacements. And speaking of those, they had significant issues coming into service as well. It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but Australia’s economy and infrastructure might not be enough to support a major warship construction effort. While providing jobs in country is a worthy goal, it should not get in the way of the RAN getting the best ships possible at the best price.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Australia’s building destroyers while we’re building littorals and frigates. Hmmm

    • USNVO

      The second round of DDG-51 FLT2As have been awarded with two building a year with the DDG-51 FLT3s just around the corner. Rants are so much more effective when they have some truth to them, don’t you think.

      • publius_maximus_III

        I get all the news I need from the weather report… and USNI.

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