Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday that nine proposed future frigates being built in the 2020s will include the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Aegis missile defense system.

Speaking at the opening of the country’s largest naval conference in Sydney, Turnbull said the Aegis Combat Systems will be made by Lockheed Martin in cooperation with Saab’s Australia branch.

Artist's conception of the Hobart Air Warfare destroyer. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
Artist’s conception of the Hobart Air Warfare destroyer. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Turnbull alluded to recent North Korean ballistic missile tests by explaining that “recent events in our region have proven that Australia’s future frigates must be equipped to defend Australia from the threat of medium- and long-range missile attacks.”

“This technology will enable the Future Frigates to engage missiles at long range,” the prime minister added.

In a 2016 Defence White Paper, the government called for investing upwards of $67 billion in new ships and submarines. In that announcement, the government said it would introduce nine new future frigates by the late 2020s. These are meant to be optimized for anti-submarine warfare and to be more capable than the current Anzac-class frigates they will replace.

In May, the prime minister also released the country’s first Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which outlines Australia’s largest shipbuilding and sustainment program. This includes work set to start this year on the development of infrastructure at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia while the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia will also be upgraded (Defense Daily, May 19).

The government said the future frigate project is planned to cost over $27.4 billion, with combat system selection expected this year. In 2016 Australia shortlisted BAE Systems, Fincantieri, and Navatia for an evaluation process, with the final winner expected to be announced in 2018.

The Aegis Combat System is currently in use aboard U.S., Japanese, and Korean ships. Previously the Australian government planned to acquire three more Lockheed Martin Hobart-class air warfare destroyers, also outfitted with the Aegis system.

Turnbull clarified that this decision will allow the three bidders suitable time to incorporate Aegis into their bids.

The 2016 Defence White Paper overall called for Australia to double its submarine fleet by acquiring 12 new DCNS Shoftfin Barracuda 1A submarines, add enhancements to the current Collins-class submarine fleet through the late 2030s, acquire 12 major surface combatants consisting of three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers and nine future frigates, and add 12 new offshore patrol vessels.