Lynn Visits Australia’s ‘Shipyard of Future’
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ADELAIDE, Australia, Feb. 15, 2010 Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III observed the opening of the heart of one of the most modern shipbuilding plants in the world here today.
U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich, left, and Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, center, tour Techport, one of the most modern shipbuilding plants in the world, with South Australia Premier Mike Rann in Adelaide, Australia, Feb. 15, 2010. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Techport is a $300 million investment in Australia’s defense. The shipyard is where the nation of 22 million people will build the country’s next class of air warfare destroyers and its next-generation submarine fleet.
The shipyard – on the banks of the Port River – is a state-of-the-art facility. Lynn observed the opening of Techport’s common-user facility – a huge expanse that includes a wharf, a ship runway, a dry berth, a transfer system and the largest shiplift in the Southern Hemisphere.
To symbolize the opening of the facility, South Australia Premier Mike Rann pushed a button starting the shiplift. A klaxon sounded, and the more-than-500-foot lift began descending into the water. The lift has a capacity of 9,300 tons, and may in years to come expand to nearly 700 feet with a lift capacity of 22,000 tons, officials said.
“Great to see such a fabulous facility and see the enormous capability that you have here in an area so important to your security,” Lynn said during a short media availability following the opening. “It’s very hopeful that our closest allies are moving in such strength in the naval area. We’re just glad to be a part of it.”
Lynn put on a hard hat and a yellow reflective vest to tour the facility. He saw buildings and shops where plates of steel will turn into the hulls of new ships. He saw where skilled workers will put together the modules of Australia’s next-generation warships.
Everything was new and gleaming. There wasn’t a speck of rust or misplaced brick in the whole shipyard, and the Australian workers in the area obviously are proud of what they have built.
The plan to build three destroyers is part of an Australian push to replace about 80 percent of the equipment in its military forces that stems from the Australian Defense White Paper published in May.
“They’ve got a financial plan that matches their strategy,” Lynn said during a later interview. “It’s got 3 percent real growth. Even with that kind of growth, it’s an aggressive plan, but they have thought it through.”
Techport – and many other decisions – backs up the defense White Paper, Lynn said. Techport is part of “a really strong industrial foundation that supports the maritime emphasis in the strategy,” he said.
While the shipyard is an Australian capability, it integrates U.S. defense industry partners. Bath Iron Works and Lockheed are working with the Australians, “and I’m sure if the U.S. Navy needed it to support our operations, it would be available, and it’s an option for the Pacific Command to examine,” Lynn said.
Australian reporters asked Lynn about the U.S. program to build the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter for use by its Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and its allies. “We’ve taken some steps to strengthen the program,” Lynn said. “We took a look at it when we came into office last year. We thought the costs were underestimated in terms of production, and we thought the development was going to last longer than originally projected.”
The U.S. Defense Department “re-costed” the production to a better estimate, Lynn said. Officials also strengthened the aircraft’s development with additional test aircraft.
“With those steps, the F-35 will continue on the path to be the backbone of tactical aviation for both the United States and Australia,” he said.