The Royal Australian Navy’s new frigates will have an anti-missile capability added as concerns over North Korea's missile program grow.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would install Lockheed Martin's Aegis combat management system, together with an Australian tactical interface developed by SAAB Australia, on the nation's new frigates when construction when it gets underway in 2020. Australia’s Future Frigate program will see a fleet of new warships constructed in Adelaide to replace the ANZAC-class frigates.
“This decision will maximize the future frigate’s air warfare capabilities, enabling these ships to engage threat missiles at long range, which is vital given rogue states are developing missiles with advanced range and speed,” said Turnbull.
“The Future Frigates will be operating in a complex and growing threat environment. By bringing together the proven Aegis system, with a cutting edge Australian tactical interface developed by SAAB Australia, our Future Frigates will have the best capability to defeat future threats above and below the surface, while also ensuring we maintain sovereign control of key technologies, such as the Australian designed and built CEA phased array radar.”
The Lockheed Martin system is expected to add about A$3 billion ($2.3 billion) to the cost of the frigates, taking the total bill to A$35 billion ($27 billion).
Turnbull also announced a streamlining of the Royal Australian Navy’s defense systems, saying the department of defence had previously tendered for combat management systems individually, which meant the Navy ran numerous systems simultaneously. This has not allowed strategic investment and has increased the cost of training, maintenance and repair.
In future, when the Aegis system’s high-end capabilities are not required, a SAAB Australia combat management system will be used. This includes mandating a SAAB Australia combat management system on the upcoming offshore patrol vessels, which will be built in Australia from 2018, and an Australian tactical interface developed by SAAB Australia for the Hobart class air warfare destroyers when their Aegis combat management system is upgraded in the future. The first Australian-built air warfare destroyer, HMAS Hobart, was commissioned in September this year. HMAS Hobart is the first of three Hobart class guided missile destroyers that will enter service in coming years.
As detailed in the Turnbull Government’s 2016 Defence White Paper, the Navy is undergoing its largest regeneration since the Second World War.