The Maritime domain is of particular significance to Australia, an island nation surrounded by one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones, rich in resources, through which the vast majority of our international trade transits. Countries across the Indo-Pacific region are expanding and modernising their maritime forces. Within our region, a range of advanced technologies are being fielded, including stealthy, long-range, high-speed weapons; modern warships; growing numbers of advanced submarines; and advanced strike capabilities. These have the potential to challenge our ability to protect our maritime resources, borders and trade, and our ability to project power.
The 2016 Defence White Paper laid the framework for the largest expansion of the Royal Australian Navy since the Second World War. The 2020 Force Structure Plan sets out a total planned capability investment of approximately $75 billion over the next decade in enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities. This expanded maritime force will provide greater capability for anti-submarine warfare, sealift, border security operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance, air warfare, area denial, sea control and undersea warfare. It will also provide more opportunities for Australian industry, to be reflected in an update to the Naval Shipbuilding Plan in late 2020.
The two largest programs in the 2017 Plan – the Attack Class Submarines and Hunter Class Frigates (pictured, below) – are now both on contract and well into the design phase. The Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel program is in production, with the first two vessels under construction in South Australia (pictured, above). The fast-tracking of the Arafura and Hunter programs have saved naval construction jobs in South Australia. The Government has also prioritised developing a sustainable, continuous shipbuilding industry to end the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of naval shipbuilding, delivering sovereign capability and certainty for industry.
In South Australia the Government has built a new world-class naval shipyard at Osborne South to support the Hunter build program and work on the new Attack submarine construction yard at Osborne North is underway (pictured, above). The Government funded Naval Shipbuilding College is working with industry and the education and training sector Australia-wide to ensure a pipeline of job-ready workers is available to feed the naval shipbuilding workforce as it grows over the coming decade.