Thales has begun designing a Maritime Autonomy and Small-Medium Enterprise Collaboration Precinct that would support the Royal Australian Navy’s Mine Countermeasures and Military Survey Capability SEA1905-1 program.
The company estimates that the precinct, set to be built at its Carrington site in Newcastle, New South Wales, would inject $25.6 million into the Hunter economy within its first five years. The defense and security company also expects the planned facility to generate over 100 new jobs for the locality.
Thales Australia is vying for contracts under the RAN’s SEA1905-1 program, which seeks to replace the military service’s Huon-class minehunter coastal ships. The RAN plans to gradually retire its remaining four MHC vessels in the 2030s.
The proposed purpose-built facility in Carrington will create opportunities for collaboration between research institutions and industry partners to support the development of autonomous military vessels for nuclear deterrence.
According to Thales, the Carrington site is ideal for maritime technology development because it provides the company access to both shallow and deep waters for testing and demonstrations.
Troy Stephen, vice president for underwater systems at Thales Australia and New Zealand, noted that Australian Defence Industries built the first Huon-class MHCs in the Hunter region in the 90s, and that the vessels continue to be maintained in Carrington today, marking the Newcastle site “a stalwart of the RAN’s mine countermeasure capability.”
“As Newcastle has evolved into a modern metropolis, the RAN’s Mine Countermeasures and Military Survey Capability will also undergo rapid advancement and a significant technological step-change into autonomy under SEA1905-1,” the executive said in a statement.