The Australian Department of Defence has announced that the prototyping phase of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Hunter-class frigate programme is underway at the Osborne shipyard in Adelaide.

Last month, 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 Australian steel cutting ceremony. This phase will prepare the shipyard and workforce for actual construction of the frigates.

The five prototype blocks, which will be manufactured and assembled during this phase, will be used to test the shipyard’s production systems. It will also allow training of the staff and help with the development of facilities.

Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s first assistant secretary ships Sheryl Lutz said: “Nine of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates will be constructed in Australia and the prototyping phase marks the beginning of a decades-long program that will be the cornerstone of continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia.

“The Osborne shipyard is a world-leading shipyard, which will enable Australian industry do its job constructing this advanced fleet of frigates for the nation.

“Raising the capability of Australia’s shipbuilding industry is central to the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise as we continue to develop a truly sovereign maritime industrial base.”

The prototyping phase will run for three years until 2023.

The Hunter-class programme will be the basic element of the Australian government’s $183bn Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

This plan will see over 70 naval vessels built in Australia by the local workers.

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