Construction of Australia’s future frigates may be delayed even further, with a secret Defence Department engineer’s report warning that meeting a revised production start date of June 2024 will be “tight”, reported Sky news.
These issues are affecting the Hunter class frigate’s expected performance, with a reduced range and slower operating speed, while it could also be easier for enemy ships to detect.
Construction of the first frigate was initially meant to start later this year but the headaches over the design prompted Defence Minister Peter Dutton to agree to an 18-month delay in July, with the expectation that time would be recovered during production because of many issues had been resolved.
However, the engineers’ assessment, prepared in November and first reported on Tuesday by News Corp, casts doubt on meeting the revised schedule because of ongoing “design uncertainty”.
“In summary, the schedule required to commence production successfully by June 2024 is tight,” the report said.
The report says the government’s original strategy of “pulling through” aspects of the reference design for Britain’s Royal Navy through to the Australian project had been “flawed” because of the changes demanded by the Defense Department.
The major stumbling block has been Australia’s preference to use a US combat system and home-grown radar, which have added to the weight, require increased power consumption and put more demand on the cooling system.
“From a platform perspective [the Hunter class frigate] is substantially heavier than the [Type 26] and has a modified hull form,” the report said.
“The additional displacement and draught have materially increased the amount of installed power required to propel the vessel, and this means a corresponding decrease in range.”
The frigates will be slower than the navy’s other major surface combatants, which are capable of sailing at speeds in excess of 27 knots, When the frigate sails at more than 12 knots, range will be restricted and larger fuel tanks required in the future vessels.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the issues raised in the report were being addressed but conceded there would be additional costs involved.
“There is an element of risk in all of these projects, otherwise, if you’re not prepared to take that, don’t build them,” he told Sky News.
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