BAE Systems, one of Britain’s leading defence, security and aerospace companies, has won a contract from the Australian government worth billions of pounds, which will see nine warships built.
With rivals in Italy and Spain competing to secure the Australian contract, worth 35 billion AUD (~€22.2bn), BAE Systems were successful in the bid. Based on the anti-submarine frigates which the British company is developing for the Royal Navy in the UK, the warships, called the “Hunter class”, will be constructed in Australia by a local workforce.
How significant is the successful bid for both the UK and Australia?
Gabby Costigan, chief executive of BAE Systems Australia, said that local construction will contribute significantly to the economy in Australia through “creating thousands of jobs, supporting new industries and boosting the national supply chain for decades to come.
“We are proud to have been selected as preferred tenderer to provide the Royal Australian Navy with a world-class ship, equipped with the latest technologies and designed specifically to meet its needs.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May said that the deal would equally provide an “enormous boost” to the economy in the UK and serves to reflect governmental strategies to “build on our close relationships with allies like Australia” in the lead up to Brexit. The government added that the warships will be the first newly-built frigates, since the 1970s, to be designed.
What will the Hunter class provide to Australian defence?
With production expected to commence in Australia in 2020, the Hunter class ships will be built in Adelaide by government-owned ASC Shipbuilding. It is anticipated that the programme will create a minimum of 5,000 local jobs over 30 years.
The Australian government added: “The Hunter class will provide the Australian Defence Force with the highest levels of lethality and deterrence our major surface combatants need in periods of global uncertainty.” The warship will be fitted with anti-missile defence systems with long-range capabilities.
Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems, said: “I am proud that our world class anti-submarine warfare design and our approach to transferring technology and skills to the nations in which we work is expected to contribute to the development of an enduring world-class naval shipbuilding industry in Australia.”
How will BAE Systems be affected in the UK?
Despite the significant boost to employment in the Australian arm of BAE, its shipyards in Glasgow, UK, are not expected to reflect any significant increases in the number of roles. UK-based trade union GMB have spoken against the agreement, where Gary Cook said: “The inconvenient truth is that we’re not exporting ships, only manufacturing jobs that should be going to British shipbuilding communities.
“And had the UK government and BAE invested in the promise frigate factory at Scotstoun, those frigates could easily be built here. Instead, there is a rubble pile where that factory should be, while 4,000 jobs and significant prosperity will be enjoyed in Australia and not the UK.”