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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3349

Question No. 480

Senator Lewis asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 November 1983:

(1) Were the two FFG Class frigates, to be built at Williamstown dockyard for the Royal Australian Navy at an estimated total project cost of $830m, designed prior to the Falkland Island conflict.

(2) Have the designs been modified to incorporate the lessons learnt by the British during that conflict namely:

(a) the need for ships with quiet engines and ability to launch large helicopters for torpedo attacks on submarines and surface ships;

(b) the importance of low profile and minimal radar echo, so that ships are difficult for an enemy to detect;

(c) the ability to attack enemy aircraft approaching at low altitude; and

(d) the problems created when plastics and light metal catch fire.

(3) Has a design comparison been carried out between the Australian FFG Class frigate and the new British Type 23 frigate.

(4) How do the Australian FFG Class frigates compare with the British Type 23 design in respect of:

(a) quiet engines and range;

(b) ability to launch large helicopters;

(c) profile and minimum radar echo;

(d) ability to attack enemy aircraft at low altitude;

(e) defence against sea skimming missiles;

(f) anti-submarine capability; and

(g) damage control and fire retardant construction (in particular in respect of materials which on ignition emit dense or toxic smoke).

(5) What would be the estimated total project costs of building two Type 23 frigates at Williamstown dockyard.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

(2) No. The design already includes measures to reduce noise, allow for operation of helicopters, is of relatively low profile and has the ability to attack low flying aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy has reviewed its fire fighting and damage control procedures and requirements as a result of the lessons learnt by the British.

(3) No. The order for the first of the Type 23 Frigates has only just been placed; final configuration details are not yet available to allow a useful comparison to be made.

(4) See paragraph (3) above.

(5) Until the construction of the first Type 23 Frigate has been completed and production details become available, it is not possible to make a meaningful estimate of project costs for building two Type 23 Frigates at Williamstown Naval Dockyard.