Henderson to help deliver ‘enhanced lethality’ naval fleet

Under the large banner heading, ‘Australia’s defence industrial base expanded to deliver Navy’s enhanced lethality* surface combatant fleet’, Richard Marles, Deputy PM of Australia and Defence Minister today issued a joint media release with Pat Conroy, the Minister for Defence Industry, International Development and the Pacific on behalf of the Albanese Labor Government explaining how Australia’s enhanced naval fleet will be procured, including by the building of general purpose frigates and other craft and vessels at Henderson just south of Fremantle.

That media release was preceded by another joint media release by the Ministers headed ‘Navy’s enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet’, and what is described as a ‘blueprint for a larger and more lethal surface combatant fleet for the Royal Australian Navy, more than doubling the size of the surface combatant fleet under the former government’s plan.’

This follows the Government’s ‘careful consideration’ of the recommendations of the independent analysis of the surface combatant fleet, commissioned in response to the Defence Strategic Review. In that regard, the Albanese Government thanked Vice Admiral William Hilarides, USN (Retd), Ms Rosemary Huxtable, AO, PSM and Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer, AO, RAN for their leadership of the independent analysis and contribution to the ‘most comprehensive update to Navy’s fleet in decades’.

Hobart Class Destroyer. Credit Pinterest.com

In the fleet expansion media release, it is stated –

Our strategic circumstances require a larger and more lethal surface combatant fleet, complemented by a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

Navy’s future fleet will be integral to ensure the safety and security of our sea lines of communication and maritime trade, through operations in our immediate region. This fleet will constitute the largest number of surface combatants since WWII.

The independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet lamented the current surface combatant fleet was the oldest fleet Navy has operated in its history, and emphasised the need for immediate action to boost Navy’s air defence, long-range strike, presence and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

In line with independent analysis’ recommendations, Navy’s future surface combatant fleet will comprise:

26 major surface combatants consisting of:

* Three Hobart class air warfare destroyers with upgraded air defence and strike capabilities
* Six Hunter class frigates to boost Navy’s undersea warfare and strike capabilities
* 11 new general purpose frigates that will provide maritime and land strike, air defence and escort capabilities
* Six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels (LOSVs) that will significantly increase Navy’s long-range strike capacity
* Six remaining Anzac class frigates with the two oldest ships to be decommissioned as per their planned service life.

The Government has also accepted the independent analysis’ recommendations to have:

25 minor war vessels to contribute to civil maritime security operations, which includes six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

The Hunter class frigates will be built at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia, and will be followed by the replacement of the Hobart class destroyer. The Hobart destroyers will be upgraded at Osborne with the latest US Navy Aegis combat system.

The new general purpose frigate will be accelerated to replace the Anzac class frigates, meaning the Transition Capability Assurance (TransCAP) upgrades are no longer required. These new general purpose frigates will be modern, capable and more lethal, requiring smaller crews than the Anzac.

Consolidation of the Henderson precinct is currently underway, as recommended by the Defence Strategic Review. Successful and timely consolidation will enable eight new general purpose frigates to be built at the Henderson precinct, and will also enable a pathway to build six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels in Western Australia.

The Albanese Government is committed to continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia and the design of Navy’s future fleet will provide a stable and ongoing pipeline of work to the 2040s and beyond.


In order to implement the recommendations of the independent analysis, the Albanese Government has committed to funding the planned acquisition and sustainment of the future surface fleet.

This will see the Albanese Government inject an additional $1.7 billion over the Forward Estimates and $11.1 billion over the next decade in Defence for an accelerated delivery of Navy’s future surface combatant fleet and to expand Australia’s shipbuilding industry.

This comes on top of the Albanese Government’s investment of an additional $30.5 billion to Defence’s Integrated Investment Program out to 2032-33.

This additional $11.1 billion of funding for the future surface fleet alone brings both acquisition and sustainment investment in the fleet to $54.2 billion in total over the next decade.

This investment provides a clear pathway for the shipbuilding industry and workforce in South Australia and Western Australia.

In the following industrial base expansion media release, you’ll see Henderson, the ship building precinct just south of Fremantle, is earmarked as a place where ‘continuous naval shipbuilding’ will be carried on for decades to come. Here is the detailed release.

The Albanese Government’s blueprint for the Royal Australian Navy’s enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet will deliver direct investment to grow a capable, resilient and competitive sovereign defence industrial base and support Australian jobs.

The Government has committed to increase Defence’s funding in the 2024-25 Federal Budget by $11.1 billion over the next decade to ensure the enhanced lethality surface combatant fleet is funded.

Australian shipbuilders and industry will be at the centre of delivering this future fleet. The Albanese Government is providing a clear pipeline of work and setting the conditions for job creation, technology investment, export opportunities, supply chain resilience, infrastructure enhancement and economic prosperity.

The independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet found in excess of $25 billion in unfunded promises in the former government’s acquisition and sustainment plans. This meant there was no certainty for Australian industry and workforce.

Over the next ten years, this investment will support more than 3,700 direct jobs and deliver the critical infrastructure required at the Osborne shipyard in South Australia and Henderson shipbuilding complex in Western Australia, delivering on the Government’s commitment to continuous naval shipbuilding.

In South Australia, the construction of the Hunter class frigates at Osborne will sustain at least 2,000 jobs and create at least 500 new jobs over the next decade.

Under this plan, the Albanese Government will enter into a build contract for the Hunter class frigates that sees construction start this year, with the final Hunter frigate to be delivered by 2043.

The Hunter class will be immediately followed by construction of the replacement for Navy’s Hobart class destroyers.

Combined with more than 4,000 estimated jobs created to build the new Submarine Construction Yard in South Australia and the more than 4,000 direct jobs to build conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia, Osborne will be at the epicentre of a naval shipbuilding jobs revolution in this country.

In Western Australia, the Albanese Government is delivering on its commitment to establishing a continuous naval shipbuilding program, securing the future of naval shipbuilding jobs at the Henderson complex for decades to come.

Consolidation of the Henderson precinct is currently underway, as recommended by the Defence Strategic Review. Successful and timely consolidation will enable eight new general purpose frigates to be built at the Henderson precinct, and will also enable a pathway to build six new Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels in Western Australia.

This is in addition to the strategic shipbuilder pilot which will see Army’s Landing Craft Medium and Heavy (Littoral Manoeuvre Vessels), as well as the decision to acquire two new Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats, all of which will be built at Henderson by Austal.

These projects will create at least 1,200 new local jobs over the next decade.

The planned Transition Capability Assurance (TransCAP) upgrades to the Anzac class will not proceed. The accelerated acquisition of a new general purpose frigate allows for a more cost effective and lethal capability outcome.

Two Anzac class vessels will be decommissioned close to their original planned withdrawal from service. The six remaining Anzac class frigates will be upgraded with enhanced maritime strike capabilities. Defence will work with industry partners to redeploy the Anzac class sustainment workforce across the Henderson precinct.

An updated Naval Shipbuilding and Sustainment Plan will be released this year.

Here’s a mock up of a general purpose frigate.

General purpose frigates. Credit aidn.org.au

If you’re wondering what an LOSV built at Henderson might look like, here’s an image of a US Navy one, courtesy of Defensenews.com

* And if you are wondering exactly what the noun ‘lethality’ means, well here’s what the online dictionary en.Wiktionary.com says:

Lethality (plural lethalities) from

The fact of something being lethal; the ability of something to kill.
The degree of lethal (mortal) danger that something (usually a disease or a weapon) presents; the magnitude of its power to kill organisms exposed to it; this property is indirectly measured by any of various proxy rates, including mortality rate, case fatality rate, or infection fatality rate (for diseases) or kill rate (for weapons, pesticides, or parasites).



By the way, don’t miss this Friday’s View from the Round House with Martin Drum when the Prof and the Shipping News’ editor discuss the international and domestic ramifications of these announcements.

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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