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Hunter-class frigate program completes SDR

The RAN’s Hunter-class Frigate Program has successfully completed its year-long System Definition Review (SDR), which defines how the Australian Combat System integrates into BAE Systems’ Global Combat Ship reference ship design. The company is prime contractor to build nine Hunter-class frigates for the RAN at its surface ship construction yard in Osborne, SA.

The SDR is the second major evaluation of the ship’s design and demonstrates how it accommodates the range of capabilities required by the Australian government, including the Lockheed Martin AEGIS combat system and Saab Australia’s Australian Interface Combat Management System, the CEAFAR2 phased array radar and integration of the Seahawk Romeo Maritime Combat Helicopter. These changes introduce significant leading-edge combat capabilities to meet the Royal Australian Navy’s needs.

The SDR, involving work by BAE Systems’ engineering teams in Australia and the UK, has established a new baseline design for the Hunter-class frigate and builds on the sovereign complex warship design capability at South Australia’s Osborne Naval Shipyard. The Hunter-class design process began its divergence from the baseline design late last year as engineers came to grips with the ship’s new radars, missiles and combat system.

However, a leaked Engineering Team Assessment that formed part of the SDR warned that the inclusion of the AEGIS and CEAFAR 2 radar had pushed the design close to the limits of its weight, power and cooling margins; it also warned the ship could be slower than planned and criticised aspects of a BAE Systems Maritime Australia’s management.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton acknowledged the criticisms but said they are being remediated. “Late last year we looked at this project in great details and we decided that we will proceed with it,” he said. “The relationship with the UK is incredibly important.”

Only recently, BAE Systems transferred more than two million digital artefacts from the UK to Australia. The first prototyping unit has also recently been completed at the Osborne shipyard, underscoring the strong progress on the Hunter program.

BAE Systems Maritime Australia Managing Director, Craig Lockhart said the SDR milestone demonstrated the company’s ability to “Australianise” the chosen reference ship design for the Hunter program.

“The selection of the Global Combat Ship for Australia’s Hunter class frigates was based on its digital pedigree, its submarine-hunting capability and its ability to accommodate the changes the Australian Customer requires,” he said. “In complex naval shipbuilding terms, a successful Systems Definition Review means that you’ve successfully established a Functional Baseline from which you can further develop and integrate the design against the Mission System Specification set by the Customer – and we’ve done just that.

After closing out the actions identified in this review, the Hunter program will progress to the next major engineering review, the Preliminary Design Review, which is a technical assessment that ensures the design is operationally effective, and detailed design and planning can commence.

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