Australia eyes new frigates under ambitious new shipbuilding plan

East Asian frigates have been identified by the Australian government to be considered as possible general-purpose designs to replace the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)’s ageing Anzac-class frigates, according to an independent study it had commissioned.

According to the recently released report, titled Independent Analysis of Navy’s Surface Combatant Fleet, the Australian government asserted that it required a “larger and more lethal” surface combatant fleet to address the RAN’s evolving maritime challenges.

“Australia’s strategic circumstances require a larger and enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet, complemented by a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet,” said Canberra.

“[The RAN’s] future surface combatant fleet will be an integral component of Australia’s joint force for operations in the immediate region to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and maritime trade,” it added.

Four frigate designs were shortlisted in the report, with Germany’s Meko A-200, Spain’s ALFA3000, as well as Japan’s Mogami 30FFM and South Korea’s Daegu-class FFX Batch II and III.

The eighth Mogami-class frigate on order for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) at the former Mitsui E&S facilities in Tamano City in November 2023. The new vessel, which will enter service as JS Yubetsu once it has been fitted out, tested, and commissioned around 2025. The new frigates will replace the JMSDF’s fleet of Abukuma-class frigates that were commissioned in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Up to 11 of the 5,500 tonne multimission frigates are expected to be acquired for the JMSDF, followed by another 12 “New FFM” designs that would feature improved capabilities. Local media have reported, citing anonymous JMSDF officials, that the baseline design failed to meet performance expectations and were limited in their growth potential.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries launched the eighth and final Daegu-class frigate ordered under the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN)’s FFX Batch-II programme, the future ROKS Chuncheon. The FFX Batch-II vessels were built to replace the RoKN’s ageing 1500 tonne Ulsan-class frigates and 1000 tonne Pohang-class corvettes.

The 2,800 tonne frigate has been provided with “enhanced anti-submarine capabilities” thanks to its advanced sonar systems and hybrid propulsion that reduces underwater radiated noise.

by Jr Ng