SEA 5000 Future Frigate Program: continuous shipbuilding under the spotlight

Author/s (editor/s):

David Feeney

Publication year:

2021

Publication type:

Discussion paper

The Future Frigates Program SEA 5000 is the largest naval shipbuilding project in Australian history, the centrepiece of the continuous National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise. This paper, by former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence David Feeney shows that Australia will be paying nearly double per frigate as compared to the contemporary US and UK Frigate programs. Even though the Strategic Update 2020 highlights Australia’s rapidly deteriorating strategic environment, Feeney shows the Government has deliberately structured the frigate program so that it delivers capability more slowly (extended to 2044) and at greater cost (an additional A$9.3 billion). He argues the key reason for this deliberate slow down in the construction rate of the frigates is to enable the “implementation of a stable, deliberate and continuous shipbuilding drumbeat” so as to “end the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of naval shipbuilding, delivering sovereign capability and certainty for industry.” The paper explores the challenges of shipbuilding, the policy tensions and trade offs, and offers suggestions for how to get SEA5000 back on track.

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