Rear Admiral Hammond will succeed Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, who led the force through the termination of the Attack class program and the birth of AUKUS. Unlike Vice Admiral Noonan, who spent the formative years of his career aboard surface ships, Rear Admiral Hammond is an experienced submariner with time at sea aboard advanced nuclear-powered boats.
The appointment reflects the new government’s determination to deliver Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarines as quickly as possible. Defence Minister Richard Marles said that procuring the new boats and addressing any capability gap would be a key role of Rear Admiral Hammond during his four-year term.
“We have seen a number of key procurements fall behind time. We do have real capability challenges facing the country, most significantly delivering the next generation of submarines. What it [abandoning the Attack class] has done is left our nation with the potential of a very significant capability gap in relation to the most important platform that we can have which builds the nation’s strategic space.”
He later added that the previous Defence Minister’s statement that Australia could acquire nuclear-powered boats before 2030 was “optimistic in the extreme”.
A Possible Surface Capability Gap?
Defence Minister Richard Marles also flagged that the new government will have announcements on the future frigate program to make within weeks. When asked if delays in the Hunter class program could lead to a surface capability gap, where Anzac class frigates are withdrawn before their replacements have entered the water, he said:
“And again we’ll be saying more about this [a possible surface ship capability gap] in weeks to come. Really the situation that the country’s been left in as a result of the inaction of the former government is pretty serious. And there are lots of challenges that we now face and so we do have real concerns in respect of a number of the key procurements. We will be saying more about that in the coming weeks.“
While it’s not clear what may be announced, Navantia Australia is continuing to push for additional Air Warfare Destroyers, going so far as to raise the topic at the first Australian-Spanish leader’s meeting. Navantia, which refused to talk to Naval News on the topic during INDO PACIFIC 2022, reportedly pitched an additional order of three Hobart class destroyers to both parties before the election.
New Facilities to Support Hunter class Program
Amidst concerns about the future of the Hunter class program, Australian company Novafast Holdings opened it’s new robotic assembly facility. The factory will be used to build composite pipes and fittings that will equip the Hunter class frigates. Some of Novafasts components have already made their way onto the prototype blocks being built by BAE Systems.
“Novafast is utilising its composite pipe technology, developed internally by our Research & Development team, to support the representative ship blocks that are being constructed as part of the Hunter program’s prototyping phase.”