WA snares frigate centre

A NEW $5.3 million ANZAC ship support centre will be developed close to the fleet at the HMAS Stirling naval base south of Perth.

The tender process to assign a head contractor for the project will start later this month.

The facility will be due for completion by the end of this year to coincide with the ANZAC class training schedule.

This new development will involve the relocation of the current support centre from Williamstown in Victoria.

The support centre is used for ongoing training, system integration and testing to ensure the fleet is sustained.

The new facility will include classrooms for computer-based training and simulation and testing areas for ANZAC combat, platform and weapons-specific systems equipment.

The Navy had already awarded the $150 million contract for upgrading the frigates’ weapon systems to a WA-based consortium of Tenix and SAAB.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said locating the support centre in WA made logistical sense.

“Now that the frigates are entering full operational deployment, it makes sense to locate the testing and training facilities at the ships’ home base,” he said.

“Sailors based in WA will also no longer have to face the prospect of being separated from their families while at sea but also while undergoing training in Victoria.

“This will provide greater stability for those personnel.”

Senator Hill said the new facility was vital for the fleet’s sustainability.

“The new support centre will offer improved opportunities to develop and enhance the ANZAC ship maintenance systems and allow real-time analysis and testing of operational systems,” he said.

Besides the support centre, the WA Government has seized on the $150 million Tenix-SAAB deal.

State Development Minister Clive Brown said the choice of Perth as a location for the upgrade work was a vote of confidence in Perth’s ship building industry.

“With our investment in the Australian Marine Complex and our ongoing efforts to attract defence technology operators to Perth, we are creating an industry cluster that could make Perth Australia’s defence industry capital,” he said.

Mr Brown said he was hopeful of attracting further defence industry work to Perth.

That view was bolstered recently with Austal Ships winning a contract to build the next generation of the Royal Australian Navy’s patrol boats.

That contract, in conjunction with Defence Maritime Services and the Australian Government, has led to the creation of a defence division at Austal.

Besides the patrol boats, Austal’s 101 metre high-speed ferry Westpac Express is on charter to the US Marines in Okinawa operating as a theatre support vessel.

The US military is expected to acquire a number of similar vessels in the next three to five years.

“The ANZAC frigate upgrade work builds up the recent winning of the $300 million patrol boat contract,” Mr Brown said.

“With the Australian Government planning further defence industry spending in the years ahead, including the building of three air warfare destroyers worth more than $4 billion, we are confident Perth’s rapidly developing defence industry capabilities will give Perth the best possible chance of winning additional contracts and creating further jobs and opportunities for Western Australians.”

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