The Australian government and BAE Systems have signed an interim contract agreement in support of the programme to build Hunter-class frigates for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
BAE Systems Australia said the Advanced Work Arrangement (AWA) agreement - announced on 4 October - will facilitate continuing work in the programme before the signing of a head contract, which is expected later this year.
The AWA covers work on maturing the design of the Hunter-class platform, engineering plans, personnel requirements, and the setting up of infrastructure that will enable prototyping to start in 2020.
In signing the AWA, the two sides also confirmed that negotiations on the head contract are continuing. Talks to enable BAE Systems Australia's acquisition of the ASC Shipbuilding, a division of the state-owned naval shipbuilder ASC Pty Ltd, are also ongoing.
Nigel Stewart, the managing director of BAE Systems Australia's Hunter-class project, said, "This is a very important and early milestone … The AWA demonstrates a commitment by both BAE Systems and the Australian government to ensure timely progress on this critical defence programme."
Australia's Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne added that the AWA is an "important first step" in integrating ASC Shipbuilding into BAE Systems.
"The process of transitioning ASC Shipbuilding into BAE Systems is well under way," said Pyne, "and ASC Shipbuilding, BAE Systems, and the Department of Finance are making good progress in negotiations".
Pyne also confirmed that the head contract will be signed between the government and ASC Shipbuilding, which will become a whollyowned BAE Systems subsidiary on completion of the acquisition talks.
Work on constructing the frigates is scheduled to begin in December 2020 and will commence with building prototypes to demonstrate that the Hunter-class design, shipyard processes, and workforce are ready to commence full-scale production.
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