The last of Australia’s Adelaide-class guided missile frigates HMAS Melbourne has been paid off at a ceremony at Sydney’s Garden Island Naval Base.
As with the retirement of any vessel of distinguished service, this was an occasion of some sadness for her past and current crew.
“It’s like having 200 deaths in your family, simultaneously. It’s an amazing experience, I’m really proud of these guys,” Melbourne’s 18th and last commanding officer CMDR Marcus Buttler.
In all, the RAN operated six of the Adelaide-class, in their time Australia’s most capable warships and with the distinctive sharply raked bow, the most recognisable.
These were a derivation of the US Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, of which 51 of the 71 constructed served with the US Navy. Their service continues with the Navies of Taiwan, Spain and others.
Four of the Australian vessels were built in the US at Todd Pacific Shipyard in Seattle with the first, HMAS Adelaide comissioned in 1980 and retired in 2008 to become a dive wreck.
The last two vessels, HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Melbourne were constructed in Australia at the AMECON yard, now BAE Systems, in Williamtown, Victoria.
HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) was laid down in July 1985, launched in May 1989 and commissioned in February 1992.
In her busy career, she deployed repeatedly to the Middle East and also to East Timor.
From the retirement of the Navy’s Perth-class guided missile destroyers, the Adelaides served as the principal air warfare warship. Originally equipped with a single Mark 13 missile launchers, they were subsequently upgraded with the additional of a eight cell Mark 41 vertical launch system.
When Melbourne arrived in Sydney on her final voyage last month, RAN Fleet Commander, RADM Jonathan Mead, said the ship had given 27 years of distinguished service to Australia’s maritime operations.
“HMAS Melbourne deployed on operations across the globe including to the Middle East eight times, earning battle honours for her service in East Timor and the Persian Gulf,” he said.
“The Adelaide Class guided missile frigates have formed the backbone of our Navy operations for decades and Melbourne has played a vital role, sailing more than 900,000 nautical miles since her commissioning in 1992.”
CMDR Buttler said Melbourne recently completed a four month deployment through north Asia, including conducting international maritime surveillance operations to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution sanctions against North Korea.
“HMAS Melbourne has been deployed overseas for most of 2018 and 2019, showing what her Ship’s company of hardworking Navy personnel can do, and although today is bittersweet I am also very proud,” he said.
“Thousands of people have called this ship home over the past 27 years with many fond memories of their time aboard and I have no doubt many of them will be sad to see her seagoing service come to a close today.”
The government has yet to decide what to do with the vessel.