Report on Royal Australian Navy Surface Fleet Expansion

February 21, 2024 11:25 AM

The following is the Australian report, Enhanced Lethality Surface Combatant Fleet: Independent Analysis of Navy’s Surface Combatant Fleet. The report was released on Feb. 20, 2024.

From the report

The 2023 Defence Strategic Review (DSR) identified that Australia’s strategic circumstances now require that our naval capability contributes effectively to the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF’s) ability to shape our strategic environment, deter potential adversaries and deny their ability to achieve objectives contrary to our national interests.

In light of our changed strategic environment, the DSR found that the current plan for the surface combatant fleet is not fit for purpose and that an enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet is now essential.

Australia’s Navy must be optimised for operating in Australia’s immediate region and for the security of our sea lines of communication and maritime trade.

Surface combatant fleet review

The Government directed an independent analysis to assess the Royal Australian Navy’s surface combatant fleet capability to ensure its size, structure and composition complemented the capabilities of the forthcoming conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines.

The independent analysis was led by United States Navy Vice Admiral (Ret’d) William Hilarides, assisted by the former Secretary of the Australian Department of Finance, Rosemary Huxtable, and former Commander Australian Fleet Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer. I extend my sincere and personal thanks to the Independent Analysis Team for their comprehensive and meticulous analysis of this complex and consequential subject.

The independent analysis included an assessment of capability requirements, cost, workforce, schedule, risk and continuous Australian naval shipbuilding. It concurred with the DSR’s findings that the current and planned surface combatant fleet is not appropriate for the strategic environment we face, noting it is the oldest fleet Navy has operated in its history. It made clear that we need a surface fleet of warships with greater capability in integrated air and missile defence, multi-domain strike and undersea warfare. These are the capabilities needed to support critical activities, including patrolling our northern approaches, close escort and theatre sea lift missions.

The independent analysis also found in excess of $25 billion in unfunded cost pressures in the surface fleet acquisition and sustainment program.

The Independent Analysis Team’s report is a classified document containing extensive capability and operational analysis and includes 18 recommendations to government. Part B of this document contains an unclassified section of the Executive Summary from that report.

The Albanese Government supports the direction and key findings set out in the independent analysis.

The way forward

The independent analysis emphasised immediate and timely action is necessary to remediate Navy’s surface combatant capability and support Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding and sustainment industry.

In responding to the DSR, the Albanese Government confirmed its commitment to continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia. The independent analysis and its recommendations support this commitment.

Implementation of the independent analysis is aimed at responding to Australia’s complex strategic circumstances, reducing strategic risk, and investing in Navy’s future capability and sovereign naval shipbuilding and sustainment enterprise.

Our response takes into account the current and deteriorating state of the Anzac class frigates, accelerating the acquisition of a new, more capable general purpose frigate to replace the ageing Anzac class. The Government has directed these ships be acquired rapidly with an established international shipbuilding partner through a hybrid offshore then onshore build strategy, transitioning to the consolidated Henderson shipyard in Western Australia. Four platforms have been identified by the independent analysis as exemplars to form the basis of a selection process for this new general purpose frigate:

  • Meko A-200
  • Mogami 30FFM
  • Daegu class FFX Batch II and III
  • Navantia ALFA3000

Hunter class frigates and destroyers will continue to be built and upgraded at Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia.

Download the document here.

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