Facing growing delays in the parallel construction of three Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD) and two Landing Helicopter Dock Ships (LHD), the Australian Ministry of defense and program manager AWD Alliance decided to redistribute the construction work among three Australian shipyards currently involved in the program, and transfer part of the work to the Navantia shipyard in Spain. This move will relieve the pressure from the BAE Systems Shipyard in Melbourne. The new plan will enable the consortium to minimize delay of the completion of the first ship by up to 12 months, and of all three AWDs by up to 12 months.
The recent decision follows the relocation of nine steel blocks constructions, from BAE Systems’ Melbourne to the Forgacs Shipyard in Newcastle, Australia. According to Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and the Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announcing the plan today, the construction of 18 steel blocks related to the first two ships will reduce the schedule risk to both this project and to the two LHD ships project currently underway in Australia. Up to 13 steel blocks will be reallocated among the three Australian shipyards in Adelaide, Melbourne and Newcastle. Seven blocks will be for advanced fit out and six for construction. Up to five steel blocks will be reallocated to Navantia in Ferrol, Spain. A decision on the reallocation of blocks on the third AWD will be made later in the project.
The AWD program encountered engineering and construction delays, related to some of the hull blocks. It seems that the delays resulted in the Melbourne BAE Systems shipyard, stretched over two major projects at the same time – constructing steel blocks for the Air Warfare Destroyers and 14 steel blocks for the superstructure of the two 27,500 ton LHD Ships, due to delivery in 2014 and 2015. According to the AWD Alliance, the industry consortium managing the program, these obstacles could push back the delivery of the first AWD ship by two years. Under the new plan, BAE will complete the structural steel and initial outfitting work on the seven steel blocks for the AWD, it is currently working on, as well as all its work on the 14 blocks for the superstructure of the Landing Helicopter Dock Ships and the integration work. The LHD ships were due to be delivered from December 2014.
The AWD Project is an important element of Force 2030. The AWD is based on Navantia’s F-100 design, similar to the AEGIS equipped vessels operated by the Spanish Navy. According to the Australian Defense, when complete, the AWD will be one of the more capable types of warship of its size in the world. Overall, the AWD program involves the construction of 90 separate steel blocks, being built at three Australian shipyards – in Adelaide (ASC), Melbourne (BAE Systems) and Newcastle (Forgacs). Three additional sonar block assemblies are being built in Spain and the United Kingdom. The total cost of the program is estimated at A$8 billion. The AWD Alliance consists of ASC, the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Raytheon.