Perth marine engineering firm VEEM is to manufacture two giant propeller blades and a propeller hub for the prototyping phase of the construction of nine Hunter class frigates for the Royal Australian Navy in Adelaide.
BAE Systems Australia has awarded a $1.7 million contract to VEEM to manufacture the components under the supervision of the original equipment supplier Kongsberg Maritime.
The blades will be the same weight and size of those on the production Hunter class, but they won’t be used on the first warship as they will be subject to destructive testing to verify manufacturing processes.
VEEM manufactures a number of vessel systems as well as propellers for luxury yachts and work boats, with the Hunter propellers likely to be the largest and most complex it has ever made.
VEEM successfully delivered an initial pilot propeller blade in early 2022, thus completing the first ‘targeted task’ in qualifying as a supplier for Kongsberg Maritime.
VEEM told investors that with the successful completion of the task by Q2, 2024, the company could access export opportunities with potential to supply frigate construction projects underway in the UK and Canada.
BAE Systems said should VEEM’s prototype propellers meet requirements the company could be down-selected for the next phase – propeller manufacture for the first batch of three Hunter class frigates.
VEEM is expected to commence work on the prototype propeller blades at its Canning Vale facility in November 2022, and will complete the work by March 2024.
BAE Systems Australia, Maritime Managing Director Craig Lockhart said the contract would grow Australian industry capability (AIC).
Lockhart said: “Building AIC is more than just spending money in Australia – it is about working with small and medium local companies to ensure they have the right cyber security systems in place, the right equipment and tools and the right workforce to manufacture and assemble parts of what is arguably the most complex warship on earth.
“We have already placed contracts with more than 50 Australian businesses to support the Hunter program’s prototyping phase, and we are close to contracting more local companies for equipment and parts manufacture, supply and assembly for the first three Hunter class frigates.
“Building a sovereign industrial capability brings local jobs, prosperity, intellectual property and security for the nation – for Hunter and naval shipbuilding programs beyond.”
Shipbuilders working on the Hunter program are currently manufacturing five prototype ship blocks to test and refine the processes, systems, tools, facilities and workforce skills ahead of construction of the first Hunter ship blocks in 2023, which will become part of the first ship.
Picture: BAE Systems Australia