More than 28 tonnes of Australian steel have been rolled off the production line at Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide with the completion of structural manufacture of the first steel prototype unit for the Hunter Class Frigate Program, the largest surface shipbuilding project in the nation’s defence history.
The 217sqm unit, which has a bigger footprint than the average Australian house, has been moved from the shipyard’s primary manufacturing hall into the next stage of production. There, it will be outfitted and consolidated (with the addition of three more units) into the first prototyping block.
The prototype unit is one of four in the first representative ship block and is the first to have been blasted and painted, cut and constructed in the new shipyard. This particular unit and block are located in the middle of the ship and would contain the Officer’s Accommodation.
BAE Systems Maritime Australia will build nine of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. The prototyping phase commenced in December 2020 and program mobilisation continues at pace, with more than 1,300 people now working across the program including 35 apprentices and 26 graduates. The Hunter program will create and sustain 5,000 jobs over the life of the program.
Steel for the prototyping phase of the Hunter program has already been procured from Bluescope AIS at Port Kembla, NSW and structural steel from Infrabuild in Whyalla, SA.
The Hunter program has already placed around 40 contracts with Australian businesses to support design and prototyping. Around 20 further contracts will be awarded to support prototyping, including ship outfitting, gaskets, wholeship eyeplates, insulation and deck coverings.
“This is a significant production milestone for the Hunter frigate program and an important start towards establishing shipbuilding capability across the Osborne Shipyard,” BAE Systems Maritime Australia managing director Craig Lockhart said.
“Osborne is one of the world’s most technologically advanced shipyards, a purpose-built modern manufacturing facility built for the digital age to deliver next generation anti-submarine warships by a highly skilled Australian workforce equipped to use Industry 4.0 technologies.”
The manufacture of the first unit has put into practice this step-change to shipbuilding programs of the past, as employees test the full productive capacity of the yard, Lockhart said. This will maximise their ability to build high quality ships through their pulse line process, using robotics to enable high quality welds and zero defects.
“This ensures an enduring and uniquely Australian sovereign industrial capability that supports Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding strategy for future generations,” he said.