Australia's $45 billion frigate program could be delayed for up to two years, with top-level naval shipbuilding experts advising the Morrison government there has been schedule "slippage" with the project.
The delay risks triggering another so-called "valley of death" for Adelaide's shipbuilding workforce because of a gap between projects, according to defence sources.
The frigate project is already unofficially lagging by 12 months, with key parts of the design unfinished and a "lack of integration" with Australian subcontractors to supply components, one source said.
The frigate's designer and builder, British defence giant BAE Systems, has blamed a lack of engineers in Australia as one of the major reasons for the hold-up.
While the Defence Department and BAE Systems insist the project remains on track to meet milestones, the department said it did not comment on advice received from the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board, a high-powered body of shipbuilding and infrastructure experts chaired by former US Navy secretary Don Winter.
BAE Systems is building nine of its Type 26 global combat ships for the Australian navy, incorporating several major changes, including a home-grown radar, Lockheed Martin's Aegis combat system and Saab's locally developed tactical interface.
Prototyping activities of the ships, dubbed the Hunter class, are meant to get under way at BAE's newly built Adelaide shipyard by the end of the year, while steel for the first frigate is meant to be cut in December 2022. (end of excerpt)
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