Three international designers have been shortlisted for the $35 billion program – British BAE, Italian firm Fincantieri and Spanish company Navantia.
The Government is expected to make a decision in 2018.
Austal chief executive David Singleton said the arrangement offers the winning designer a compelling low-risk Australian shipbuilding solution.
“The powerful partnership will bring Austal’s unparalleled record in aluminium shipbuilding, exports and operational efficiency to combine with ASC Shipbuilding’s expertise in steel warship manufacturing,” he said.
The new frigates will replace the existing Anzac fleet.
Production is scheduled to start from 2020 at the Federal Government-owned shipyard at Osborne in South Australia.
ASC Shipbuilding CEO Mark Lamarre said the link with Austal was “a powerful partnership that not only achieves the Government’s objectives for a sovereign and sustainable shipbuilding capability in Australia, as set out in the recent Naval Shipbuilding Plan, but confirms to all those in the industry that there is a bright and successful future ahead”.
“Australia deserves an industry that designs, builds, upgrades, maintains and exports naval vessels in Australia, by Australians working for Australian companies that are also headquartered and have ultimate decision making authority in Australia,” he said.
“This agreement delivers on that objective. With our combined strengths, we will deliver the best capability for the Australian Navy and, for the first time ever, we will be on track to building a truly sovereign and sustainable shipbuilding capability for decades to come.”
South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said the joint bid could be an answer to the “ongoing question of local content and how much involvement the winning designer will have in the build program”.
“If we have an Australian ship builder constructing the vessel in partnership with the designer we are one step closer to having a sovereign national shipbuilding industry, based in Adelaide,” he said.
“A joint venture between Austal and the ASC, the latter being the only proven ship builder of large vessels of this kind, is a good development for Australia.”
Austal and ASC are competitors when it comes to the contract to build offshore patrol vessels.
German shipbuilders Lurssen and Fassmer are competing with the Dutch bid Damen for the design contract.
Lurssen and Damen have teamed up with ASC and Perth-based Civmec.
Meanwhile, Austal has partnered with Fassmer.
The offshore patrol vessels will be built in both Adelaide and Perth with the construction to start next year.
– with AAP
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