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Austal to build LCMs under LAND 8710 strategic partnership

The Australian government aims to secure Australia’s shipbuilding capability and invest further in Western Australian defence industry through a new strategic partnership between Defence and Austal Limited at Henderson Shipyard in Fremantle, WA.

Its first step towards doing so has been to select the Australian Army’s Landing Craft Medium (LCM) and Heavy (LCH – both classes referred to generally as Littoral Manoeuvre Vessels) which will both be built at Henderson by Austal under Project LAND 8710, subject to successful commercial negotiations and ongoing performance.

Australia’s Birdon Group Pty Ltd, based in Port Macquarie, NSW, has been selected as the preferred designer for the LCM capability, of which 18 will be built by Austal. Designed jointly by Birdon and Incat Crowther, a demonstrator has been under construction by WA company Echo Marine Group.

The Commonwealth will work with Birdon to mature the LCM design.

Subject to the LCM’s project’s performance, the Government also intends to build the LCH capability through the strategic partnership.

This will accelerate and expand the delivery of vessels that will provide Army with the ability to conduct littoral manoeuvre operations, consistent with the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review.

Austal will also deliver two new Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats for the Royal Australian Navy at an acquisition cost of $157.1 million. This important capability will replace and significantly enhance Navy’s aging at-sea navigation and seamanship training capability.

“This significant reform will see Henderson become one of Australia’s biggest and most efficient naval shipbuilding complexes that has the capacity and capability to meet the evolving needs of our Defence Force,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles

“By securing the future of continuous naval shipbuilding at Henderson, industry will have the certainty it needs to invest in the local workforce and contribute to the West Australian economy for decades to come.”

The Defence Strategic Review observed that there was not enough work to sustain the number of shipbuilders located at Henderson, and the Government agreed to a recommendation to examine industry consolidation options as a matter of priority.

As one of two major shipbuilding hubs in Australia, Henderson is an asset of national importance and pivotal to the build and sustainment of vessels for the Australian Defence Force. This significant reform will secure Henderson’s future as a vital naval shipbuilding complex with the capacity and capability to meet the evolving needs of our Defence Force, says the Department.

This initiative will deliver a secure pipeline of work at Henderson, providing industry with greater certainty and helping to secure long-term skilled jobs, infrastructure investment and productivity in the local economy.

“This partnership represents a new approach to Australian shipbuilding and reflects the Albanese Government’s steadfast commitment to delivering a future made in Australia,” said Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy. “A continuous pipeline of work and an efficient, streamlined approach will not only benefit the delivery of Defence capability but create industry confidence to invest in a highly capable shipbuilding workforce in Western Australia

“Australian industry can compete with the best in the world, but for too long has suffered the boom bust cycle of shipbuilding, undermining productivity and workforce retention. This ends with this strategic partnership.”

To underpin the strategic shipbuilder pilot, Defence and Austal will enter into a Heads of Agreement – which will set out the principles and framework that govern this enduring partnership – and will commence negotiations for a strategic shipbuilder agreement.

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