RAN major surface combat vessels hit key capability milestones
The RAN’s three Hobart class destroyers have formally been declared as having achieved their Final Operational Capability (FOC).
The three vessels, HMA Ships Hobart, Brisbane, and Sydney achieved the milestone following the recent return of HMAS Sydney from a successful 18-week deployment to the US west coast and Canada where it successfully verified and qualified its weapons systems in a series of trials.
The trials were conducted in conjunction with the US Navy at the vast Pacific test ranges near Hawaii and off the coast of California, and saw the vessel’s systems and crew challenged in realistic tests and demonstrations. This included testing the vessel’s ability to integrate with US Navy assets via the Co-Operative Engagement Capability (CEC), a US high-end naval networking capability so far made only available to Australia.
Sydney’s successful completion of the trials follows similar deployments to the US of sister vessels HMA Ships Hobart and Brisbane in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“Our deployment was the culmination of more than a decade of work by Navy in partnership with the Australian shipbuilding industry,” CMDR Andrew Hough said in a Defence release. CMDR Hough assumed command of HMAS Sydney from commissioning CO CMDR Edward Seymour during the deployment.
“Despite the constraints of the pandemic, the crew achieved their mission while maintaining COVID-safe practices, with the support of their families back home,” he added. “They demonstrated resilience and professionalism and showed that while the pandemic continues to shape our navy-to-navy interactions, we can still operate domestically, regionally and globally.
“It was an honour to lead such a dedicated crew and to return to our home port, knowing we have been part of the final check-off for such a critical capability.”
In a separate release, Chief of Navy VADM Michael Noonan said, “Navy’s three Hobart class destroyers use a number of systems in common with the US Navy, which allows our ships to be fully interchangeable with the most advanced allied naval force in the Indo-Pacific region. Australian destroyers are a key contribution to the Australia-United States alliance and will be employed in maintaining the peace and prosperity of our region for the next 30 years.
The three Hobart class vessels are considered to be the most advanced warships to ever serve in the RAN. They are based on Navantia’s F100 design – specifically Spain’s F104 ESPS Méndez Núñez – and were built at Osborne in South Australia by the AWD Alliance under the Project SEA 4000 Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) program.
But the achievement of FOC doesn’t mean development of the Hobart class will cease. Future upgrades of the DDGs’ Aegis combat system to the Baseline 9 (BL9) standard are planned under the Project SEA 4000 Phase 6 program, as are upgrades to, or the replacement of, the SPY-1D(V) radar, and new longer-ranged anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile weapons.
“Due to the ever-changing strategic environment, the Hobart class will continue to be upgraded with the latest weapons and sensors over coming years in order to maintain a capability edge,” VADM Noonan added. “They are equipped with layered defensive and offensive capabilities for above water, surface, and undersea warfare. Our destroyers are a force multiplier for the ADF and a key element of the joint force Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) capability.”
Meanwhile, the RAN’s Project SEA 1448 Phase 4B program to upgrade the air search radar capability of the ANZAC class frigate fleet has achieved an initial operational capability (IOC).
Described by Defence as “one of the most advanced, sovereign air search radar capabilities in the world”, the Australian-designed, developed, and manufactured CEA CEAFAR-2L L-Band Phased Array Radar system has replaced the original Raytheon AN/SPS-49(V)8 air search radar installed on the ships when built in the 1990s, as part of the Anzac Midlife Capability Assurance Program (AMCAP) upgrade.
The Phase 4 AMCAP upgrade follows the previous baseline SEA 1448 Phase 2/2A/2B anti-ship missile defence (ASMD) upgrade which was completed across all eight ANZAC vessels in 2017. These previous phases saw the combat management system upgraded to the SAAB 9LV 453 Mk.3E, the installation of a Sagem Vampir NG Infra-Red Search & Track (IRST) system, and the integration of the CEA CEAFAR phased array radar and dual navigation radar system.
The ASMD and AMCAP upgrades are most recognisable by the new faceted main mast around which the two banks of phased array radar faces are arranged to provide 360-degree coverage of the sea and air domains around the vessel. The upgrades have seen the vessel gain 300t in displacement.
The CEAFAR1 system installed for ASMD is classed a medium-power radar, while the CEAFAR2-L is a high-powered radar with a capability well beyond 100 nautical miles.
“The ANZAC Air Search Radar replacement project has not only replaced the ageing air search radar but delivered ground-breaking integrated digital Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) capability, a world first within a Phased Array Radar System,” Deputy Director Systems, CMDR David Bettell said in a release.
Chief of Navy VADM Mike Noonan added, “This technology has delivered a significantly advanced air warfare and missile self-defence capability to Navy’s ANZAC Class frigates and provides Navy with one of the most advanced, sovereign air search radar capabilities in the world. The close partnership between Government and Australian industry is crucial to this Australian success story.”
Other systems integrated to the ANZAC class under AMCAP project include a CEA-designed IFF system which is integrated into the CEAFAR2-L system, new sewage systems, improvements to the Control and Monitoring System, and additional enhancements to the communications suite. The modification program also included the Platform System Remediation Project to enhance ship-enabling capabilities of power, air conditioning,
and chilled water.
The upgrade program is managed by the Warship Asset Management Agreement Alliance – a teaming of CASG, Saab Australia, BAE Systems Australia, and Naval Ship Management Australia – and is being conducted at Henderson in WA. All eight ANZAC class frigates are scheduled to have completed their AMCAP upgrade by 2023.
This article appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of ADBR.