BAE Systems has announced that the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Hunter-class frigate programme has reached new milestone at the Osborne naval shipyard in Adelaide.

The milestone achievement comes after the company launched over 28t of Australian steel off the Hunter-class frigates production line at the shipyard.

BAE said that the 217m² steel prototype unit has been moved from the shipyard’s primary manufacturing hall into the next production stage.

At this stage, the unit will be fitted and consolidated with three other units into the first prototyping block.

This prototype unit is one of the four units in the first ‘representative ship block’.

Australian flat product steel producer Bluescope supplied steel for the prototyping phase of the project, while structural steel was sourced from Infrabuild.

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By GlobalData

BAE Systems Maritime Australia managing director Craig Lockhart said: “This is a significant production milestone for the Hunter frigate programme and an important start towards establishing shipbuilding capability across the Osborne Shipyard.

“Osborne is one of the world’s most technologically advanced shipyards, a purpose-built modern manufacturing facility built for the digital age to deliver next generation anti-submarine warships by a highly skilled Australian workforce equipped to use Industry 4.0 technologies.

“Critically, the manufacture of the first unit has put into practice this step-change to shipbuilding programmes of the past, as our employees test the full productive capacity of the yard maximising our ability to build high quality ships through our pulse line process utilising robotics that enable high quality welds and zero defects.”

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.

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

BAE noted that the Hunter-class frigate programme is expected to create some 5,000 jobs across the lifetime of the programme.

According to the company, nearly 40 contracts have already been placed with local businesses for design and prototyping phase of the programme.

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