Australia Boosts Navy Spending to Expand Fleet Since WWII
Australia Boosts Navy Spending to Expand Fleet Since WWII

Sydney - Australia has announced a significant boost in defense funding, allocating an additional 11.1 billion Australian dollars ($7.2 billion) to bolster its naval capabilities. This investment aims to construct a larger and more powerful surface combat fleet, marking the country's most substantial naval expansion since World War II.

Defense Minister Richard Marles revealed on Tuesday that the government's commitment to inject additional funds is part of a broader AU$54 billion initiative aimed at revamping Australia's surface fleet over the next decade. This initiative seeks to elevate the number of combat-ready warships from 11 to 26.

Although not explicitly naming China, Marles hinted at Australia's strategic response to Beijing's growing influence in the region. Notably, Australia's efforts include signing the AUKUS security pact in 2021 to acquire nuclear submarines.

Speaking at a press conference at Sydney's Garden Island naval base, Marles emphasized the significance of enhancing Australia's naval capacity to contribute effectively to future contingencies over the next decade. He highlighted the necessity of adapting to the evolving global landscape and emphasized the transformational change in naval capabilities planned for the mid-2030s.

The unveiling of the government's plan for an "enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet" follows an independent review of Australia's warship capabilities.

As part of the initiative, Australia will expedite the procurement of 11 general-purpose frigates. The initial three will be constructed offshore, with design options from Germany, South Korea, Japan, and Spain under consideration. The first of these frigates is anticipated to be operational by the end of the decade. The remaining frigates will be built at the Henderson shipyards in Perth, Western Australia.

Additionally, Australia will acquire six new "large optionally crewed surface vessels" (LOSVs), developed by the United States, to be built at the Western Australian site. While these vessels can be operated remotely, Australia intends to crew them, with deployment expected between the mid-2030s and 2040s.

Despite challenges such as cost overruns and delays, plans to construct Hunter-class frigates at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia will proceed, albeit with a reduction in number from nine to six. The first of these frigates is slated for delivery in 2034, with the final vessel expected by 2043.

Australia's current Hobart-class air warfare destroyers will also undergo upgrades, including the integration of long-range Tomahawk missiles. Additionally, six Anzac-class frigates will be retained, while two of the oldest frigates, including the HMAS Anzac, will be decommissioned.

Australia remains committed to nurturing its domestic shipbuilding industry, with a focus on the Henderson and Osborne shipyards. The expansion of the Osborne site will facilitate the construction of AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines and replacements for the navy's Hobart-class destroyers.

Marles indicated that the process of determining replacements for the Hobart-class destroyers will commence in the coming years. The announcements made on Tuesday are expected to generate 3,700 direct jobs and numerous opportunities in the industry's supply chains.

In line with recommendations from the independent review, Australia will also procure 25 minor war vessels, including "evolved" Cape-class patrol boats built by domestic shipbuilder Austal at Henderson.

Minister for Defense Industry Pat Conroy hailed the investment as a significant milestone for the defense industry, emphasizing its positive impact on workers in Adelaide and Perth. He underscored the commitment to delivering enhanced capabilities to the Royal Australian Navy and highlighted the bright future for shipyard workers contributing to national defense efforts.

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