BAE Systems Australia has successfully completed the construction of the first steel prototype ship block of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Hunter-class frigate.

Also called Block 16, the first block is equal to the size of two houses and weighs more than 140t and was constructed in around 45,000 hours.

This is the first of five prototype ship blocks that are initially being constructed by the company to evaluate and hone the systems, processes, facilities, tools and workforce skills, prior to the construction of the actual first Hunter-class frigate.

Each Hunter-class multi-mission frigate will have 22 blocks.

The construction of Block 16 involved expertise from as many as 35 different trades, including welders, boiler makers, engineers, project managers and fabricators.

According to BAE Systems, the newly constructed first prototype block, without being changed as per the Hunter-class design, will be integrated to form the middle section of the ship.

This section of the ship will have space to accommodate the crew.

Work is being performed at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia.

In the coming weeks and months, work on the second and third prototype blocks of the Hunter-class programme will continue. Each prototype block, the company claims, is more complex than the last one.

The ongoing prototyping programme will progress to production stage by mid-2023.

The new stage will involve manufacturing of additional blocks with the necessary Hunter-class design changes.

The blocks with design changes will further be used for one of the first three ships of this class.

BAE Systems Australia Maritime managing director Craig Lockhart said: “Throughout construction of first prototype ship block, our highly-skilled workforce has been able to incorporate new, more efficient and effective ship-build methods and innovations into our processes.”