Navy’s enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

dpm.media@defence.gov.au

02 6277 7800


The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Media contact

media@defence.gov.au

(02) 6277 7840

General enquiries

minister.conroy@dfat.gov.au

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20 February 2024

Today, the Albanese Government has released its blueprint for a larger and more lethal surface combatant fleet for the Royal Australian Navy, more than doubling the size of the surface combatant fleet under the former government’s plan.

This follows the Government’s careful consideration of the recommendations of the independent analysis of the surface combatant fleet, commissioned in response to the Defence Strategic Review.

Our strategic circumstances require a larger and more lethal surface combatant fleet, complemented by a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

Navy’s future fleet will be integral to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and maritime trade, through operations in our immediate region. This fleet will constitute the largest number of surface combatants since WWII.

The independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet lamented the current surface combatant fleet was the oldest fleet Navy has operated in its history, and emphasised the need for immediate action to boost Navy’s air defence, long-range strike, presence and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

In line with independent analysis’ recommendations, Navy’s future surface combatant fleet will comprise:

  • 26 major surface combatants consisting of:
    • Three Hobart class air warfare destroyers with upgraded air defence and strike capabilities
    • Six Hunter class frigates to boost Navy’s undersea warfare and strike capabilities
    • 11 new general purpose frigates that will provide maritime and land strike, air defence and escort capabilities
    • Six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels (LOSVs) that will significantly increase Navy’s long-range strike capacity
  • Six remaining Anzac class frigates with the two oldest ships to be decommissioned as per their planned service life.

The Government has also accepted the independent analysis’ recommendations to have:

  • 25 minor war vessels to contribute to civil maritime security operations, which includes six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

The Hunter class frigates will be built at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia, and will be followed by the replacement of the Hobart class destroyer. The Hobart destroyers will be upgraded at Osborne with the latest US Navy Aegis combat system.

The new general purpose frigate will be accelerated to replace the Anzac class frigates, meaning the Transition Capability Assurance (TransCAP) upgrades are no longer required. These new general purpose frigates will be modern, capable and more lethal, requiring smaller crews than the Anzac.

Consolidation of the Henderson precinct is currently underway, as recommended by the Defence Strategic Review. Successful and timely consolidation will enable eight new general purpose frigates to be built at the Henderson precinct, and will also enable a pathway to build six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels in Western Australia.

The Albanese Government is committed to continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia and the design of Navy’s future fleet will provide a stable and ongoing pipeline of work to the 2040s and beyond.

Budget

In order to implement the recommendations of the independent analysis, the Albanese Government has committed to funding the planned acquisition and sustainment of the future surface fleet.

This will see the Albanese Government inject an additional $1.7 billion over the Forward Estimates and $11.1 billion over the next decade in Defence for an accelerated delivery of Navy’s future surface combatant fleet and to expand Australia’s shipbuilding industry.

This comes on top of the Albanese Government’s investment of an additional $30.5 billion to Defence’s Integrated Investment Program out to 2032-33.

This additional $11.1 billion of funding for the future surface fleet alone brings both acquisition and sustainment investment in the fleet to $54.2 billion in total over the next decade.

This investment provides a clear pathway for the shipbuilding industry and workforce in South Australia and Western Australia.

The Albanese Government thanks Vice Admiral William Hilarides, USN (Retd), Ms Rosemary Huxtable, AO, PSM and Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer, AO, RAN for their leadership of the independent analysis and contribution to the most comprehensive update to Navy’s fleet in decades.

Quotes attributable to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Richard Marles MP:

“The enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet will ensure the Navy is optimised for operations in our current and future environment, underpinned by the meticulous assessment conducted by the Independent Analysis Team.

“Australia’s modern society and economy rely on access to the high seas: trade routes for our imports and exports, and the submarine cables for the data which enables our connection to the international economy.

“The Royal Australian Navy must be able to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and trade routes as they are fundamental to our way of life and our prosperity.”

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Pat Conroy MP:

“This significant advancement in Navy capability that will be delivered under this plan requires a strong, sovereign defence industry.

“This plan ensures Navy’s future fleet can meet our strategic circumstances by delivering a larger and more lethal fleet sooner and secures the future of naval shipbuilding in Australia, supporting 3,700 direct jobs over the next decade and thousands of indirect jobs for decades to come.”

 Quotes attributable to the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond AO:

“A strong Australia relies on a strong Navy, one that is equipped to conduct diplomacy in our region, deter potential adversaries, and defend our national interests when called.

“The size, lethality and capabilities of the future surface combatant fleet ensures that our Navy is equipped to meet the evolving strategic challenges of our region.”

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