Home' Work Boat World : October 2015 Contents Good news for Australian
shipbuilders and the RAN
With TREVOR HOLLINGSBEE
There have been significant developments in recent months
with respect of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) ambitious
In late May, ‘Hobart’, the first of class of the much-delayed Air
Warfare Destroyers (AWD) programme, was launched.
Then, August saw the landing platform (helicopter) ‘Canberra’
successfully complete helicopter, and landing craft integration
trials. This was followed by its very recently completed sister ship
‘Adelaide’ putting to sea for initial trials. ‘Canberra’ is expected to
be cleared for humanitarian and disaster relief operations by late
this year, and both these vital components of Australia’s
intervention capabilities are due to be fully operational before the
end of 2017.
Also in August, a formal bid was received from Spain’s Navantia
to build two new replenishment tankers for the RAN. Navantia is
in competition with South Korea’s DSME, teamed with BMT of the
UK, for the contract. A decision is expected next year.
There has, though, for some time been serious concern over the
long term outlook for the RAN, particularly as the Australian
warship building industry has seemed increasingly to be out of
political favour, with no sign of much-needed new orders.
In early August, however, there was a drastic change in the
service’s outlook, when the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
announced a AU$89 billion (US$65 billion) revamp of the RAN,
while simultaneously confirming that all ne w major Australian
surface combatants are to be constructed in-country.
The replacements for the RAN’s eight aging ‘Anzac’ general
purpose frigates (project designation SEA 5000), analysed in Naval
Gazing May 2015, are to be constructed to a modern overseas
design, adapted to Australian requirements. Under consideration
are derivatives of two advanced European frigate designs-UK’s Type
26, and the Franco-Italian FREMM.
State-o wned ASC is to be the lead builder, and it is probable
that, as with the AWD, modular construction techniques,
involving a number of other shipyards, will be used.
Also, AU$1.2 billion is being allocated to shore up the AWD
programme, which is now some two years behind schedule, and to
carry out a strategic review of ASC.
Under the offshore combat vessel project (SEA 1180), up to 20
multi-purpose ships, of about 2,000 tones displacement, will be
built, commencing in 2018. OPV variants will be fitted with a
medium calibre gun and a helicopter deck. They will replace the
RAN’S ‘Armidale’ patrol craft, which have reportedly proved to be
less than ideal for sustained operations in Australia’s vulnerable
Other versions, equipped with unmanned underwater vehicles,
will replace the RAN’s current flotillas of mine countermeasures
vessels and survey ships.
Abbott made little mention of the ongoing ‘Collins’ submarine
replacement project (SEA 100), but the favoured option is option is
still widely believed to be a variant Japan’s successful ‘Soryu’ class.
Following amendments to Japanese domestic legislation, Tokyo
is now very keen to win overseas orders for defence equipment. In
order to strengthen its hand, the bidding Japanese MHI/KHI
consortium recently formed an alliance with two British-based
companies, namely BAE Systems and Babcock. Both these
companies have extensive submarine experience and already have
industrial infrastructure in Australia.
Also in the running to build the new submarines are DCNS of
France, and Germany’s TKMS.
Abbott has been accused by some opponents of choosing an
unacceptably expensive option for the upgrading of the RAN. It is
likely, though, that the large Australian shipbuilders, namely ASC,
Austal, BAE Systems and Forgacs will all get a slice of the action,
and that the resultant boost to regional jobs, and profits, will
garner him appreciable political advantage.
PLA Navy vessels transferring to China Coast Guard
Currently undergoing conversion at Pudong, Shanghai, are
two People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ‘Jiangwei 1’ class
frigates. The two 2,300-tonne, 112-metre diesel powered
warships, built in the early 1990s, are being prepared to join the
China Coast Guard as patrol ships
Most of the frigates’ ar mament of YJ-83 anti-shipping cruise
missiles, HQ-61 air defence missiles, 100mm guns and 37mm
canno n is surplus to requirements for a CCG ship, and is being
removed, reportedly leaving just two twin 37mm cannon
mountings on the forward part of the ships.
The ‘Jiangwei 1’ frigates, and probably, in due course, their
two sister ships, will augment the CCG’s current inventory of
some 350 offshore vessels (the service also operates thousands of
smaller vessels). They are not the first PLA Navy warships to be
modified for paramilitary roles, as the CCG already operates
converted ‘Luda ‘ destroyers and ‘Jianghu’ frigates.
It is likely that the CCG, which has the prime responsibility
for enforcing China’s claims to offshore sea areas and islands,
values the former warships for their endurance and seakeeping
qualities, and for their intimidating profiles.
Formed in 2013 from the merger of five independent
paramilitary maritime forces, the CCG is not only bolstered by
the commissioning of modified warships. The service is being
radically upgraded by the construction of some 100 purpose-built
armed patrol ships. China’s paramilitary ships used to lack fixed
armament, but many CCG ships, in a strong signal of China’s
current proactive approach of its offshore sovereignty claims, are
no w fitted with cannons and machine guns
Significantly, two new 10,000-tonne patrol ships, each armed
with a 76mm gun, and capable of supporting operations by two
large Z-8 helicopters, will shortly join the CCG fleet. The purpose
of building such big ships is probably to outmatch the rival Japan
Coast Guard, w hich operates 11 armed, and helicopter -capable,
patrol ships of up to 9,300 tonnes displacement.
The Canberra with MRH 90 helicopters and landing craft.
12 October 2015 WORK BOAT WORLD
12 NAVAL:Layout 1 14/9/15 11:47 AM Page 12
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