The Australian prime minister says the country’s new warships are to be equipped with long-range missile defense systems in an effort to counter threats from “rouge states” amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Malcolm Turnbull further stated on Tuesday that nine combat frigates set for construction in 2020 will use the Aegis combat system manufactured by the US-based Lockheed Martin Corporation in conjunction with SAAB Australia technology.
Three shipbuilders, namely the UK’s BAE Systems, Spain’s Navantia and Italy’s Fincantieri, are competing for the $27 billion warship contract, he added.
Canberra is expected to announce the winner of the frigate contract in early 2018.
“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,” said the prime minister during a speech in Sydney in an apparent reference to North Korean missile tests.
He further added that the new warships would be operating in “a complex and growing threat environment.”
“By bringing together the proven Aegis system, with a cutting edge Australian tactical interface developed by SAAB Australia, our future frigates will have the best capability to defeat future threats above and below the surface,” he underlined.
Canberra announced details of a huge shipbuilding policy back in May, marking its largest peacetime naval investment that includes 12 new submarines and 12 Armidale offshore patrol vessels, designed for border protection. French naval contractor DCNS was picked last year to design and build the submarines.
The $70 billion package to shore up the country’s military capabilities also featured the new combat frigates – also a core of Australia’s scheme to counter an expected hike in submarine activity in the region. Presstv
Australia’s navy chief, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, also told reporters in Sydney that the decision to use the Aegis ballistic missile defense systems brings the country’s naval forces in line with US, Japanese and Korean vessels, thus allowing international cooperation.
“The missile defense will protect Australia’s forward based forces and in a coalition scenario,” said Euan Graham, director of the national security program at Australian think-tank, Lowy Institute.
“The choice of the Aegis system allows Australia to plug into the US alliance. They will be able to share data from vessels and potentially aircraft,” he added.
The development came as tensions in the region have escalated considerably in recent months after North Korea carried out a series of test-launches of its medium- and long-range ballistic missiles. It also conducted its sixth nuclear test on September 3.
Pyongyang, which has vowed to target the US mainland with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile if militarily threatened by Washington, has also declared that its missiles are capable of striking Australia, a close US ally in the region.