25 Jul

'WA could host British Royal Navy ships' Sarah Martin, The West

Britain is hoping to sell its Type 26 frigate to the Royal Australian Navy.

WA could host Royal Navy ships from Britain as its defence minister flags new deployments in the Asia-Pacific region and joint naval exercises with Australian forces.

Ahead of a visit to Australia this week, British Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon said the Royal Navy was looking to expand its deployments “further and wider” afield, amid rising tensions in the South China Sea and on the Korean Peninsula.

The move comes as British defence giant BAE Systems revealed it had held preliminary discussions with operators of its Henderson shipyard about hosting Royal Navy ships deployed to waters north of Australia.

Sir Michael, who will meet Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne and Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne on Friday, said Britain wanted to work more closely with Australia to keep trade routes in the South China Sea open.

“When we do have a ship in the region, we will of course exercise that right as Australia does and we’ll be working with Australia on what’s called the Five Powers arrangement to ensure that we learn to exercise together, to operate together as close as possible,” Sir Michael said.

“We’re growing frigates, we are building new submarines so we are growing the size of the Royal Navy, and that will enable further and wider deployments than has been possible in the past.”

Director of contract management for BAE Systems Andrew Coxall said the company was preparing for a ship deployment requiring support services in Australia.

“I had discussions recently with ... Henderson along the lines of if the navy chooses to send a ship down to that part of the world, what sort of support arrangements would we be able to provide from Henderson,” Mr Coxall said.

The Royal Navy and BAE Systems are hopeful the Australian Government will choose Britain’s Type 26 frigate for the $30 billion Future Frigate program, over rival ships being offered by Spain’s Navantia and Italy’s Fincantieri.

Sir Michael said he would be highlighting the Type 26’s anti-submarine capabilities when he met Mr Pyne this week, saying it was “the most advanced ship in the world” of its type.

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