Naval ship designs a talking point at Indo Pacific 2023

Tasman-class corvette
Tasman-class corvette

New surface warfare platform designs being proposed for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)’s hotly debated modernisation programmes took centre stage at the recently concluded Indo Pacific 2023 maritime exposition in Sydney from 7-9 November.

Amid uncertainty over the future of the RAN’s Hunter-class frigate programme, which seeks to deliver nine ships worth A$45 billion, contracted shipbuilder BAE Systems Australia proposed design changes which would boost the baseline design’s firepower with additional vertical launch system (VLS) cells from the original 32 cells to 96 cells and add four deck-mounted quadruple launchers for Naval Strike Missiles (NSMs).

Construction of the first Hunter-class frigate is expected to commence in 2024 with delivery from 2031 onwards.

The proposed design changes emerged as the government conducts a major review into the composition of the RAN’s surface combat fleet as part of the Defence Strategic Review (DSR), and on the back of public criticism that the frigates would be too large and heavy by the time they were introduced into service – which would then limit growth potential and future relevance.

Meanwhile, Spanish shipbuilder Navantia looks to continue its success with the RAN and used Indo Pacific 2023 to position itself for an anticipated requirement for a “Tier 2” surface combatant as part of proposals made in the DSR. The company earlier supplied its designs for the service’s Canberra-class landing helicopter docks and Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers.

For the emerging requirement, Navantia is offering what it calls the Tasman-class corvette based on its ALFA 3000 light frigate design. The company announced a partnership with Australian shipbuilder Austal and Civmec to construct the ships in Henderson, Western Australia, should its design be selected.

The RAN has yet to release any information on the specifications and quantity of Tier 2 surface combatants that it intends to acquire.

by Jr Ng