Britain ‘makes pitch for massive Australia warship contract’
SYDNEY – Agence France-PresseBritain’s defense secretary made a strong push on July 26 to build Australia’s next fleet of warships, saying the frigates he proposes are best placed to hunt “Russian and Chinese submarines” amid regional tensions.
Australia earlier this year detailed a massive Aus$89 billion ($70.4 billion) shipbuilding strategy, including constructing new submarines and frigates, in the nation’s largest peacetime naval investment.
The big increase in defense spending comes as Beijing flexes its muscle in the region through a military build-up in the contested South China Sea, and as tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon made the pitch to build the nine frigates as part of a Aus$35 billion project ahead of annual Australia-Britain defense and foreign minister talks in Sydney this week.
Three designers are vying for the massive contract - Britain’s BAE Systems, Italy’s Fincantieri and Spain’s Navantia - which is described by Canberra as currently the world’s largest frigate shipbuilding program of its kind.
“You need in a region that is now as unstable and tense as it is, as you’ve decided, some anti-submarine hunting capability and the very latest capability,” Fallon told The Sydney Morning Herald.
He said the Type 26 Frigate - a class currently being constructed for the British navy - would be better than their Italian and Spanish rivals in hunting “Russian and Chinese submarines” in waters around Australia and the Pacific.
“The quietness of the ship, and the sophistication of the technology on it, puts it way ahead of any European offer you might be considering,” said Fallon.