The RAN’s final two Perry/Adelaide class FFGs – the former HMA Ships Melbourne and Newcastle – have been officially handed over to the Chilean Navy.
In a low key ceremony on April 15 at HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney that wasn’t publicised by the ADF, the two vessels were commissioned into Chilean Navy service and renamed Almirante Latorre and Capitan Prat. They will be home-ported at Valparaiso, and join three Type 23 Duke class frigates, one Type 22 Batch 2 Boxer class frigate, and two Karel Doorman M class frigates in Chilean service.
HMAS Newcastle was built in 1993 and was decommissioned in June 2019, while HMAS Melbourne was built in 1992 and decommissioned in October 2019. Defence strategists and observers had advocated to retain the two ships in a ready reserve condition as they are still considered to be quite capable following an extensive refit in the late 2000s.
“It remains a very good platform,” John Blaxland from the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre told The Australian newspaper last December. “The fact that Chile wants to buy them speaks to their enduring utility.” Reports had indicted their was also a strong interest in the two ships from Poland and Greece.
“This is a wake up call,” Blaxland added. “While we have embarked on a regeneration of the naval fleet, we are basically talking about one-for-one rather than growing. We need to keep these, and when the ANZAC frigates come up to be replaced, we need to keep them too.”
Both ships had returned from deployments shortly before being decommissioned, and had ably demonstrated their reliability, utility and capabilities on those deployments. The RAN’s other four FFGs were scuttled as dive wrecks or artificial reefs following their decommissioning.