BAE Systems contracted for Hunter frigate naval guns

USS Porter
The introduction of PGMs to naval guns are giving them a new level of capability. The increased range and point target accuracy make them an effective answer to the small fast attack boat threat. Here the USS Porter fires its Mk.45 127mm gun. (US Navy)

BAE Systems has been awarded a US$255 million contract to supply the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) next-generation Hunter-class frigates with the Mk 45 naval gun systems.

The company announced on 8 January that it will deliver three Mk 45 naval gun shipsets, each comprising the 127 mm, 62-calibre Mk 45 Mod 4A naval gun with a fully automated ammunition handling system (AHS) that continuously supplies the gun with ammunition without assistance from the crew even in high sea state conditions.

“The Mk 45 gun system will equip the Royal Australian Navy with a common, adaptable gun system that can easily integrate advanced munitions to provide the firepower required to meet the Hunter-class deterrence mission”, the company said.

BAE Systems was earlier selected to supply the weapon in November 2023.

“We are proud to partner with BAE Systems Maritime Australia to deliver the Mk 45 gun system and Ammunition Handling System to the Royal Australian Navy,” said Brent Butcher, vice president and general manager of Weapon Systems at BAE Systems at that time.

“The highly reliable Mk 45 system maximizes the lethality of the Hunter class frigates, offers the capability to integrate advanced munitions, and supports additional future technology upgrades,” added Butcher. “With this system fielded on 11 fleets across the globe, it has proven it offers high-reliability.”

Work on the contract will begin in 2023 and conclude in 2036. Engineering work will be performed in Minneapolis, Minnesota with production to commence in Louisville, Kentucky.

BAE Systems is leading the Hunter-class programme, which seeks to deliver nine frigates worth A$45 billion and replace the RAN’s six upgraded but ageing ANZAC-class frigates which have been in service since 1996.

However, uncertainty over the future of the programme has prompted the company to propose 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.

Separately, BAE Systems announced that it also won a contract to upgrade existing Mk 45 Mod 2 naval gun systems on the ANZAC-class frigates with a Common Control System (CCS) for commonality and enhanced interoperability with the newer Mod 4 gun systems.

by Jr Ng