BAE Systems Australia has awarded forward prototyping contract agreements worth over $800,000 to three Australian businesses for the future Hunter-class frigate programme.

The three firms are Century Engineering, Novafast International, and Mackay Consolidated Industries.

The three local companies will provide a range of ‘pipe infrastructure’ for the prototyping phase of the programme, which is currently underway at Osborne shipyard in Adelaide.

These Australian businesses will join BlueScope Steel, Infrabuild Steel Centre, APS Adelaide Profile Services, and TQCSI-Yaran as the latest members of BAE Systems Australia’s local supply chain for the project.

In 2018, the Australian Government awarded a contract worth A$35bn ($24.37bn) to BAE Systems to construct nine Hunter-class frigates for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the SEA 5000 programme.

The Hunter-class frigate programme is expected to create some 4,000 direct and indirect local jobs across the programme.

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The new class of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) vessels will replace the existing Anzac-class frigates. It is based on BAE Systems’ Type 26 ‘Global Combat Ship’ design.

Australia Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has welcomed the latest step of the Government towards the ‘Australian Industry Capability’ (AIC) policy.

Price said: “The Morrison government’s commitment to AIC has given BAE Systems Australia the confidence to engage with Australian industry and to bring forward these contracts, investing in the skills and capability of Australian workers and industry.

“This is the latest example of this government’s commitment to developing a world-class sovereign defence industrial capability and ensuring that Australian industry and workers build the capability the Australian Defence Force needs to keep us safe.”

In December, the Hunter-class frigate programme officially entered the prototyping phase, marking a key milestone for the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

The prototyping phase was officially launched with an Australian steel cutting ceremony. This phase will prepare the shipyard and workforce for the actual construction of the frigates.