Australia’s fleet of new surface warships will be equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis combat management system (CMS), Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on 3 October.
Opening the Pacific 2017 International Maritime Exposition in Sydney, the prime minister said that the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) next fleet of frigates — Future Frigates — were primarily meant for anti-submarine warfare but given the growing threat by rogue states such as North Korea will now be tailored to shoot down medium-and long range missiles.
“Recent events in our region have proven that Australia’s future frigates must be equipped to defend Australia from the threat of medium and long-range missile attacks,’’ Turnbull said in written comments provided to The Australian. Consequently, the decision was made to equip the new ships with the Aegis combat system — an automated command-and-control (C2) and weapons control system offering integrated air and missile defense capabilities.
“This technology will enable the future frigates to engage missiles at long range,” Turnbull said.“I am determined to keep Australians safe. Giving our navy the best combat management technology will ensure that we can meet and overcome any threat that comes our way — in the air and at sea.”
According to Australia’s Minister for Defense Industry, Christopher Pyne, the Aegis combat system will have tactical interface built by SAAB Australia. “The AWD [air warfare destroyer] and the Frigate will have an Aegis Combat Management System with a Saab Australia developed interface to manage the non-Aegis systems like the Australian developed Nulka rocket and the CEA radar, Pyne said in a speech on October 4.
According to Australia’s recently released shipbuilding plan, the Future Frigate program — project SEA 500 — entails the construction of nine surface combatants at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, South Australia to replace Anzac-class frigates beginning in 2020. (RAN will begin phasing out its fleet of eight Anzac-class frigates from 2024 onwards.) Three shipmakers are currently competing for the contract through a competitive evaluation process – BAE Systems; Fincantieri; and Navantia.
The SEA 500 frigates will not be Australia’s first surface combatants to be equipped with the Aegis combat management system. The new Hobart-class of air warfare destroyers, based on the Navantia-designed Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate (aka F-100), have been built around the Aegis combat management technology. As I explained in March:
Each ship will be equipped with the AN/SPY-1, an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar system, which will be paired with the MK 41 Vertical Launching System, capable of firing Raytheon’s Standard Missiles (SM) of all variants as well as the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. The SPY-1 is the heart of the Aegis combat system.
The Australian government is expected to announce the winner of the SEA 500 competition in the middle of 2018. The new frigates will not provide a comprehensive missile shield across Australia. However, the Aegis combat management system will allow the new warships to more quickly acquire and share data of incoming missiles with regional allies operating Aegis destroyers including Japan, South Korea, and the United States.