29 Januari 2010
Adelaide class : upgrade included combat and fire control systems, air search radar, improved air defence and sonar and upgraded missile systems.(photo : Maleny S)
THE navy has accepted into service four Adelaide Class frigates, about five years behind schedule, ending a troubled $1.5 billion upgrade contract.
Speaking at the opening of the Pacific 2010 Maritime Congress exposition in Sydney yesterday, Defence Minister John Faulkner said valuable lessons had been learned during the upgrade, but the navy was now equipped with a lethal new capability.
The delays resulted from a "significant underestimation" of the complexity of the upgrade at the start of the project in the late 1990s, Senator Faulkner said.
The four US-designed Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates -- HMAS Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Newcastle -- were acquired in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The Defence Minister conceded that, soon after being elected, the government had doubts about the viability of the upgrade contract because it was so far behind schedule. The frigate contract was put on the government's "projects of concern" blacklist.
"Changes in project scope, from six to four ships, and decisions in 2006 regarding the prime contract, resulted in an agreed new program schedule which I am pleased to publicly acknowledge, has now been achieved," Senator Faulkner said.
"The upgraded FFG is a formidable capability.
"We have learnt valuable lessons from the FFG upgrade experience and more importantly we are delivering a significantly improved capability with substantial opportunities for further improvement."
The frigate upgrade program was the most sophisticated and complex naval systems integration project undertaken in Australia, said prime contractor Thales (Australia) managing director Chris Jenkins..
The warship makeover involved upgrades to the combat and fire control systems, air search radar, improved air defence and sonar and upgraded missile systems.
Other improvements include installation of a modernised 20mm Phalanx "last ditch" close defence system and new lightweight torpedoes.
It's expected that, following the upgrade, the warships will now be capable of deployment on operational duties to the Persian Gulf.
The four warships are now the most lethal vessels in the navy