Steel contract signed for new Australian frigate prototypes

June 5 (UPI) — A delivery contract for 1,500 tons of steel plate, for prototypes of the Australian Navy’s Hunter-class frigates, was announced by the government on Friday.

BlueScope Steel AIS will supply the steel to ASC Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia, to construct five ship blocks in the prototyping phase of the program, the company said Friday.

The blocks will then test processes, systems, tools, and facilities before the start of construction, in 2022, of the first of nine planned frigates. It is the first of a number of contracts to be awarded for prototype development.

The project involves BAE Systems, Saab Australia, Lockheed Martin Australia and numerous subcontractors.

Friday’s development is important to the country’s defense sector, as well as to a critical Australian industry, Australian officials have said. The National Naval Shipbuilding Program, announced in 2017, was budgeted $62.8 billion for vessels, $700 million for shipbuilding infrastructure and $43.8 billion for workforce training and development.

“This is a significant milestone and in awarding this contract to BlueScope Steel AIS we are confident that we have selected the company with the best capability while meeting our commitments to supporting Australian businesses and maximizing Australian industry capability,” Craig Lockhart, of ASC Shipbuilding, said Friday in a statement.

The new “future frigates” will be larger than Anzac-class vessels currently in use, and focus on anti-submarine warfare.

“The Hunter Class Frigate Program has reached another milestone with a $2.5 million contract being signed,” Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said in a Twitter message on Friday.

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