Prototyping Phase of Hunter Class Frigate Program for Australian Navy is one step closer

According to information published by the Australian Ministry for Defence Industry on December 14, 2020, the prototyping phase of the Australian Morrison Government’s Hunter Class Frigate Program is one step closer, with West Australian company Altrad Services contracted to provide blast and paint services.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Artist rendering of BAE Systems Hunter-class frigate for Australian Navy. (Picture source BAE Systems)

The Prime contractor for the Hunter program, ASC Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia, has signed the contract with Altrad Services after a competitive tender process. The Hunter Class is based on BAE Systems’ Type 26 Global Combat Ship design, the world’s first bow-to-stern digitally-designed anti-submarine warfare frigate. On 29 June 2018, the Australian Government announced BAE Systems was selected as the preferred tenderer to deliver nine frigates to the Royal Australian Navy and that BAE Systems would acquire ASC Shipbuilding.

The Hunter class frigate will be modified to meet Australian requirements, including incorporating the Aegis combat management system, CEAFAR2 phased array radar, Australian communications systems, and the integration of the Seahawk Romeo Maritime Combat Helicopter. It will be constructed on an acoustically quiet hull and feature unique sonar capabilities, modular digital design and open systems architecture to facilitate through-life support and upgrades as new technology develops.

Altrad Services will prepare the steel supplied by BlueScope Steel AIS by blasting it and painting it with a primer, prior to being cut and fabricated into blocks. The completed blocks will then pass through the new Block paint facility, ensuring the blocks are in a condition to paint and be ready to be transformed into prototype blocks.

The first three ships of the Hunter Class will proudly carry the names of three major Australian regions, all with strong historical maritime and naval ties. HMA Ships Flinders (II) (SA region named for explorer Captain Matthew Flinders - first circumnavigation of Australia and identified it as a continent); Hunter (NSW region named for Vice-Admiral John Hunter - first fleet Captain and second Governor of NSW); and Tasman (state and sea named for explorer Abel Tasman - first known European explorer to reach Tasmania, New Zealand and Fiji). The class name was specifically chosen for the alternate interpretation of a ‘hunter’ personifying the role of the frigates as a submarine hunter, with the term embodying the pursuit of prey.

The Hunter-class frigate will be powered by a combined diesel-electric and gas (CODLAG), a modification of the combined diesel and gas propulsion system for ships, including one Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine, four MTU Type 20V 4000 M53B high-speed diesel generators, and two electric motors. The ship will have a top speed of 27+ knots with a maximum cruising range of 7,000 nautical miles or (13,000 km; 8,100 mi) in electric motor drive. 

The Hunter-class frigate will be armed with 2 x 4-canister advanced anti-ship missiles, 32 Mark 41 Vertical Launch System able to fire RIM-66 Standard 2 surface-to-air missile, RIM-162 ESSM air defense missile, MU90 Impact torpedoes, one 5-inch 54 calibre Mark 45 Mod 4 dual purpose naval gun, two 30mm short-range gun systems and two 20mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon Systems).