Australia and the UK have held preliminary talks about the future of both nations’ frigates and how the two countries may work together to best utilise their defence budgets.
Frigates are expected to be discussed at the Australia/UK Ministerial Meeting tomorrow along with the transition in Afghanistan, cyber security and international threats such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
Ahead of the meeting, UK Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond said the UK’s frigate program - a Type 26 Global Combat Ship - had been designed so that it would be built in the UK for its use and also through partnerships with other countries for their own use.
“It’s designed as a platform that can be fitted with different combat systems for different types of operations around the world,“ he said in Perth today.
He said he hoped Australia would be the first to join the program.
Mr Hammond said with so many nations struggling with the fiscal climate, they were under pressure to rationalise their defence budgets.
He said it was more important than ever for allies to work together to get the most out of their budgets.
“We need to keep technical capabilities and jobs in our own countries and we need to ensure interoperability of our equipment, both between ourselves and with the United States and other key allies,” he said.
Mr Hammond said the requirement of six frigates in Australia and 13 in the UK meant both countries needed to make their defence dollars go further for maximum military output.
“The key lesson that we’ve learnt as we’ve gone through this process is it’s about getting value for money for the budget we do have available,” he said.
“By collaborating together, by bulking up programs, by designing things so that they can meet the needs of more than one country, you can actually get a lot out of the budget that you have available.”
Defence Minister Stephen Smith was also positive about future co-operation between the countries, particularly because Australia would need to look at a future frigate program by the end of the 2020s.
Mr Smith said he hoped to further discuss submarine maintenance and sustainment, future submarine programs, design and build issues.
AUKMIN follows last year’s AUSMIN summit, which welcomed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to Perth.