News story: Defence Secretary meets Australian defence minister following £20bn British warship deal

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson met with Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne today, following the country’s decision to buy a British warship design as part of a potentially record-breaking £20 billion deal.

The meeting between the two ministers, and Defence Minister for procurement Guto Bebb, came just a fortnight after British firm BAE Systems was chosen as the preferred bidder for Australia’s ‘SEA 5000’ Future Frigate competition, securing the biggest international ship deal of the decade.

The agreement will see nine cutting-edge British Type 26 Global Combat Ships built in Adelaide, supporting 4,000 Australian jobs and boosting the two nations’ military capabilities.

Discussing future cooperation between the two nations at the Australia–United Kingdom Ministerial Equipment and Industry Dialogue today, ahead of the annual AUKMIN talks later this month, Mr Williamson and Mr Pyne agreed to deepen their countries’ equipment relationship and explore future industry collaboration.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

In the face of intensifying threats, it is more important than ever for great allies like Britain and Australia to stand together.

The £20bn Global Combat Ship deal struck between BAE Systems and the Australian Government marks the start of an exciting new era in our nations’ defence and industrial partnership, creating jobs for generations and keeping us safe.

It is also a major vote of confidence in British design, British engineering, and British innovation at a vital moment in our history. It also highlights the importance of our Armed Forces having a presence all over the world.

From my meeting with Minister Pyne today, it is clear that both our nations have a shared desire to work more closely together to strengthen and equip our militaries to defeat the threats of a darker and more dangerous world.

Defence Minister Guto Bebb added:

Ensuring our forces have the cutting-edge equipment they need is extremely important and today’s meeting with our Australian counterparts is part of our mission to do just that.

Innovation is at the heart of equipment capability and working with allies to develop world-leading military technology will be of huge benefit to both our nations.

During the dialogue, the ministers discussed the importance of working together to leverage the strengths of each other’s industries while maximising access to cutting edge defence capabilities from both countries.

They also spoke about improving and driving down costs across the supply chain for naval ships, discussed defence industry up-skilling initiatives and agreed to establish a Memorandum of Understanding to support industry and equipment collaboration.

Mr Pyne expressed interest in gaining a greater insight into the United Kingdom’s approach to growing a skilled workforce to support its shipbuilding programme.

The pair also reaffirmed their commitment to enhance capability, interoperability and innovation through deepening the countries’ industrial base ties.

The talks follow the deployment of a third Royal Navy ship, HMS Argyll, to the Asia-Pacific region, following on from HMS Sutherland and HMS Albion, and marking the first time three British warships have been sent to the area. Australia offered to host the next Ministerial Equipment and Industrial Dialogue in January 2019.

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