Austal has entered an agreement with ASC Shipbuilding to support the Royal Australian Navy's $35bn SEA5000 Future Frigate Programme.

The programme is an important part of the Australian Government’s plan to modernise the country’s naval capabilities and create a continuous naval shipbuilding industry.

The deal will see the two companies work in collaboration to contribute their complementary strengths, skills and experience to help ensure the success of the initiative.

Austal chief executive officer David Singleton said that the partnership will combine the company’s record in aluminium shipbuilding, exports and operational efficiency with ASC Shipbuilding’s skill in constructing steel warships.

Singleton said: “The Austal-ASC Shipbuilding teaming arrangement offers a compelling, low-risk Australian shipbuilding solution for each of the three shortlisted international designers; BAE, Fincantieri and Navantia.”

Austal has sold more than 255 vessels to 100 customers across 44 countries to date, including the US.

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"The Austal-ASC Shipbuilding teaming arrangement offers a compelling, low-risk Australian shipbuilding solution for each of the three shortlisted international designers."

The Future Frigates Programme will focus on the development of a new fleet of nine anti-submarine warfare frigates, which are intended to replace the existing fleet of eight Anzac-class frigates.

The future frigates will be equipped with a range of offensive and self-protection systems and will be deployed to conduct a range of missions, while possessing sufficient range and endurance to allow them to operate effectively throughout the region.

BAE Systems, Fincantieri and Navantia will each refine their designs and participate in the next stage of the Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP), with Gate Two Government approval expected in 2018.

Construction is slated to begin in 2020 at the Federal Government-owned shipyard in Osborne, South Australia.