Saab Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia have been selected as the preferred combat system integration partners for the country’s A$35bn ($25.01bn) Hunter-class future frigate programme.

The two companies have been chosen by BAE Systems Australia, which is the preferred supplier of the nine anti-submarine Type 26 global combat ships for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

The advanced work arrangement (AWA) for the project was signed between the company and Australian Government last month.

Under the agreement, BAE is responsible for the design, integration, testing and activation of the combat system, which will be integrated throughout the entire Hunter-class fleet.

If selected, Lockheed Martin would be responsible for manufacturing and delivering the Aegis weapon system, while Saab Australia would build an advanced tactical interface.

“The Hunter-class will give the men and women who operate these ships the capability to protect the nation against airborne, surface and undersea threats.”

The selection will help generate and sustain 100 highly skilled combat systems engineering jobs, which is expected to increase to more than 200 as the Hunter-class vessels enter their production phase.

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BAE Systems Australia Hunter-class frigate programme managing director Nigel Stewart said: “As the preferred supplier for the Hunter-class frigates, we are building a world-class platform and combat systems engineering team and I am proud to include Lockheed Martin Australia and Saab Australia.

“The Hunter-class combat system is a vital piece of the frigate’s infrastructure, which will give the men and women who operate these ships the capability to protect the nation against airborne, surface and undersea threats.

“We can be proud that this capability is being created in Australia and that the Hunter-class programme will sustain the existing skills and experience of the engineers already delivering capability to the navy.”

Saab noted that a contract has not yet been signed between the companies for the future frigate development project, which has been designed to replace the RAN’s existing fleet of eight Anzac-class vessels.

Expected to employ approximately 4,000 workers, construction on the frigates is due to begin in 2020 at Osborne Shipyard in Adelaide.