Launch of the first steel unit for the Australian Hunter class frigate program

According to a press release published by BAE Systems on October 13, 2021, more than 28 tonnes of Australian steel has been rolled off the production line at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide with the completion of structural manufacture of the first steel prototype unit for the Hunter Class Frigate Program, the largest surface shipbuilding project in the Australian nation’s defence history.
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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 (Picture source: BAE Systems)

The 217sqm unit, which has a bigger footprint than the average Australian house, has been moved from the shipyard’s primary manufacturing hall into the next stage of production where it will be outfitted and consolidated (with the addition of three more units) into the first prototyping block.

The prototype unit is one of four in the first representative ship block and is the first to have been blasted and painted, cut and constructed in the new Shipyard. This particular unit and block are located in the middle of the ship and would contain the Officer’s Accommodation.

BAE Systems Maritime Australia will build nine of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. The prototyping phase commenced in December 2020 and program mobilization continues at pace with more than 1,300 people now working across the program including 35 apprentices and 26 graduates. The Hunter program will create and sustain 5,000 jobs over the life of the program.

Steel for the prototyping phase of the Hunter program has already been procured from Bluescope AIS at Port Kembla, NSW and structural steel from Infrabuild in Whyalla, SA.

The Hunter program has already placed around 40 contracts with Australian businesses to support design and prototyping. Around 20 further contracts will be awarded to support prototyping, including ship outfitting, gaskets, whole ship eye plates, insulation and deck coverings.

The Hunter-class frigate is a future class of frigates for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to replace the Anzac class. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, with the first of nine vessels to enter service in 2031.

The Hunter-class frigate will be an Australian variation of the Type 26 class frigate that is to be operated by the Royal Navy from the mid-2020s. The class will have a 8,800-tonne (8,700-long-ton) full load displacement and will be approximately 150 metres (492 ft 2 in) in length. The vessel will be capable of sailing in excess of 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph) and will have a full complement of 180 crew.

A Saab tactical interface with the Aegis combat interface will be used. The vessel will be able to carry one MH-60R ASW helicopter, and has the ability to host other Australian aircraft such as the MRH90 helicopter.