Australian air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart launched

HMAS Hobart, the first ship in the Air Warfare Destroyer program. Image courtesy of the Australian Navy.

The first of three next generation Australian Navy Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD) was launched over the weekend from a dry-dock in Adelaide.

HMAS Hobart, one of the most advanced ships ever commissioned for the Australian Navy, was based off the designed of the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate.

Measuring in at 146.7 meters long, the ship contains the space for 180 crewmembers, 2 inflatable boats and a Seahawk anti-submarine helicopter.

In total the AWD project will produce three ships which, combined with the new Canberra-class helicopter carriers, will form the core of the fleet into the future.

“Once fully operational, the warships will have a combination of great endurance, offensive and defensive weapons, flexibility and versatility. [The ships] will assume a leading command and control role with the Australian Defence Force […] capable of carrying out multi-mission operations,” said Defence Minister Kevin Andrews.

The ship was launched to great fanfare on Saturday, with thousands of workers involved in its construction attending the event, as well as many politicians.

Like many other defence projects the AWD acquisition program is currently mired in controversy due to cost overruns. Already coming in at over $9bn ($8bn was originally allocated) for the 3 planned ships, reports suggest that a further $1.2bn will be needed to complete the project.

In addition, the project is years overdue, with the ships not set to be ready until at least 2020.

Future of Navy shipbuilding in doubt

While the Adelaide shipbuilding facility will be occupied for some years producing these new ships, the long term viability of this industry is in doubt.

The Abbott government had earlier planned to produce Australia’s next generation of submarines in Australia; however pressure from within the Liberal party has caused the project to remain up in the air.

Opposition figures who attended the event criticized the government for its approach, which they claim risks jobs and leaves the country without a shipbuilding industry.

“It is a shame that the Abbott Government has used today’s launch of the first of the Hobart Class to again politicise our national security and denigrate Australia’s shipbuilding industry to justify breaking its own promise to build 12 new submarines in Adelaide,” said Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence David Feeney.