Hunter Class Frigate Program targets local industry

More than 1000 small and medium businesses have registered through the ICN Gateway to compete for work in the $35 billion Hunter Class Frigate Program.

Through Hunter, BAE Systems Australia’s shipbuilding business, ASC Shipbuilding, will deliver nine anti-submarine warfare frigates to the Royal Australian Navy.

Suppliers from across the country are keen to be involved in the two-year prototype phase of the project, due to start at the end of 2020.

Ross Hillman, ASC Shipbuilding Supply Chain Director, said the prototyping phase would test the Osborne shipbuilding site in Adelaide’s northwest, ready for the full rollout of the Hunter class frigates.

He explained that ships were built in “blocks” and that during prototyping five blocks will be built and all the processes, systems, tools, facilities and workforce competencies will be tested and refined before construction on the first frigate commences in 2022.

By the time the two-year prototyping phase finishes in December 2022, Ross says Osborne “will be able to build a ship from end-to-end” rather than simply assemble blocks built elsewhere.

BAE Systems Australia started working with ICN to identify local suppliers during the tender phase for the Hunter program, and in June 2018 BAE Systems was awarded the tender. At the same time, the Australian Government announced that ASC Shipbuilding would become a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia Ltd.

“We are using ICN as a common means of communications with all suppliers,” Ross said.

“Working with ICN gives us ready access to a large number of SMEs we wouldn’t otherwise know about.”

To date, ASC Shipbuilding has shortlisted almost 400 Australian suppliers for the prototyping phase.

ASC Shipbuilding will start placing orders within weeks, and Ross expects with regards steel for the prototyping phase, the vast majority will be made in Australia.

But as early as this year, there will be opportunities to register expressions of interest in the ship build.

ASC Shipbuilding’s supply chain team is liaising with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) across the world to ensure they are aware of, and engaging with, Australian suppliers. This is part of the Hunter program’s Australian Industry Capability (AIC) strategy, which aims to:

  • develop workforce capabilities in design and engineering, combat systems, program management, production and supply chain management
  • maximise opportunities for Australian suppliers, including supplying systems, equipment and initiatives to nurture and grow small-to-medium sized businesses
  • transfer technology and intellectual property to Australia
  • invest in infrastructure and early careers programs
  • conduct Research and Development (R&D) and develop export prospects
  • create opportunities for indigenous suppliers and indigenous employment
    When it comes to the production of the first three frigates, Ross expects OEMs to start sending out requests for tender soon.

When it comes to the production of the first three frigates, Ross expects OEMs to start sending out requests for tender soon.

“We have mandated that OEMs will outline their Australian SME requirements through the ICN,” Ross said.

“We would expect a ripple effect from the original SME contact with the OEM, which could cascade two, three or even four tiers into the Australian supplier base.”

ASC Shipbuilding and OEMs will use the ICN Gateway, registering expressions of interest and posting all non-export controlled work packages available to Australian industry. ICN consultants will also be involved in pre-qualifying suppliers that lodge an EOI.

OEMs are also encouraged to continue their industry engagement, assessing local industry capabilities and conducting market testing.

There will also be regular industry briefings and supplier engagement, which will be broadcast via the ICN.

ICN and ASC Shipbuilding encourage suppliers who an interested in keeping up to date on the Hunter program to register on Gateway and ensure their profile is up to date.