UK defence chief assures “teething problems” of future Australian frigates will be overcome

Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The UK Chief of Defence Staff has assured that reported “teething problems” in relation to a new class of frigates slated for Australia will be overcome.

In an interview with the ABC during his recent visit to Canberra, Admiral Tony Radakin said the UK-led joint program to develop Type 26 frigates for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was still on track despite the reported problems.

Radakin said such problems were inevitable in the case of first-of-class ships but that these are being resolved and the overall program itself was “in good shape.”

Australia is scheduled to take delivery of its own variants of the Type 26 ships, the Hunter-class frigates, beginning no later than 2031. However, concerns have been raised by officials in Canberra following news of delays and technical problems hampering the $45 billion program.

Retired Vice-Admiral David Shackleton, who served as Australia’s navy chief from 1999 to 2002, said that the Hunter-class ships will be handicapped by their insufficient missile armament. Specifically, each Hunter-class frigate will have only 32 launch cells compared to 48 cells on each of the lighter and slightly smaller Hobart-class air warfare destroyers currently in service.

Shackleton remarked that having only 32 missile cells would be inadequate for a ship to defend itself without compromising its ability to strike an adversary.

With an estimated displacement of 10,000 tonnes, the Hunter-class will be the RAN’s “largest, but least well-armed, surface combatant,” Shackleton wrote in an opinion piece for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in April.


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