The Royal Australian Navy’s nine new anti-submarine warfare frigates will have an anti-missile capability added as concerns over North Korea and air threats in the region grow.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would install the American-built Aegis combat management system, together with an Australian tactical interface developed by SAAB Australia, as part of the “future frigate” construction when it gets underway in 2020.
“This decision will maximise 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,” Turnbull said in a joint statement with defence minister Marise Payne and Christopher Pyne, the minister for defence industry.
“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.”
The RAN’s three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers have the Aegis system, which is also being used by US, Japanese, Spanish, South Korean and Norwegian naval fleets, and is now on more than 100 ships globally.
The Lockheed Martin computer and radar tracking and missile guidance technology is expected to add around $3 billion to the cost of the frigates, taking the total bill to $35 billion.
Turnbull also announced a streamlining of the RAN’s defence systems, saying Defence had previously tendered for combat management systems individually, which meant the Navy ran numerous systems simultaneously.
“This has not allowed defence industry to strategically invest for the long-term and has also increased the cost of training, maintenance and repair,” he said.
The government has mandated that when the Aegis system’s high-end capabilities are not required, a SAAB Australia-developed combat management system will be used in all future Australian ship projects, including the 12 offshore patrol vessels being built from next year.
The SAAB Australia tactical interface will also be installed in the Hobart class Destroyers when the Aegis combat management system is upgraded next.
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