|BAE Systems Type 26 for Australia's SEA-5000 program|
Britain's defence secretary Wednesday made a strong push to build Australia's next fleet of warships, saying the frigates he proposes are best placed to hunt "Russian and Chinese submarines" amid regional tensions.
Australia earlier this year detailed a massive Aus$89 billion (US$70.4 billion) shipbuilding strategy, including constructing new submarines and frigates, in the nation's largest peacetime naval investment.
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The big increase in defence spending comes as Beijing flexes its muscle in the region through a military build-up in the contested South China Sea, and as tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made the pitch to build the nine frigates as part of a Aus$35 billion project ahead of annual Australia-Britain defence and foreign minister talks in Sydney this week.
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Three designers are vying for the massive contract -- Britain's BAE Systems, Italy's Fincantieri and Spain's Navantia -- which is described by Canberra as currently the world's largest frigate shipbuilding programme of its kind.
"You need in a region that is now as unstable and tense as it is, as you've decided, some anti-submarine hunting capability and the very latest capability," Fallon told The Sydney Morning Herald.
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