Procurement programme of the Royal Australian Navy

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The Royal Australian Navy, although a significant force in the Asia-Pacific region, is nonetheless classed as a medium sized navy. Its fleet is based around two main types of surface combatant, with limited global deployment and air power capability. However in 2009, a white paper, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, was produced by the Australian government which set out a programme of defence spending that will see significant improvements to the RAN's fleet and capabilities.

Surface combatants[edit]

Adelaide class frigate HMAS Darwin

The RAN currently has two main classes of surface combatant:

The Adelaide class first entered service in the early 1980s, with a total of six units eventually being constructed. The first four were constructed in the United States as part of the US Navy's run of Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the remaining two were built in the late 1980s in Australia. However, the later two units were constructed with largely the same technology as the previous four. As a consequence, in the mid 1990s it became necessary to think about upgrading the class as a whole. The "FFG Upgrade Project" (FFGUP) was initiated in 1994 with a view to installing improved armaments and equipment, with the most obvious addition being an 8-cell Mk 41 VLS, similar to those fitted to the Anzac class. This will enable the ships to fire the Evolved Sea Sparrow, in addition to their existing Harpoon and Standard 2 missile capability provided by the Mark 13 missile launcher system. The culmination of this project will see four ships upgraded; the two oldest units (HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Canberra) were decommissioned. The Australian newspaper has stated that the last two ships, Newcastle and Melbourne, may be kept in service past the end of their expected decommissionings in 2019 and 2021.[citation needed]

Anzac class frigate HMAS Anzac

The Anzac class is the latest major fleet type to enter service. The first unit was commissioned in 1996 and the last entered service in 2006. These vessels are more optimized for general warfare – as part of the continuing upgrading of these vessels, their anti-surface and undersea protection will be enhanced through the addition of the Harpoon, and a towed mine and obstacle avoidance sonar. In the mid 2020s, the Anzacs will be replaced by a class of eight Future Frigates displacing 7,000 tons. These ships will be equipped with cruise missiles and anti ballistic missiles like the SM3, but will be primarily focused towards ASW. The ships will have the ability as well to carry helicopters, UAVs and have long range sonar as well as a towed sonar array all according to the 2009 Defence White Paper.

The most significant current project is the Hobart class air warfare destroyer. This will eventually see at least three new air defence destroyers enter service to replace the Adelaide class. According to the 2009 Defence White Paper, a fourth ship may be ordered, but is currently unexercised option. The Hobarts will be fitted with the Aegis combat system, and will be based on the F100 design by Spanish company Navantia. The ships will be fitted with cruise missiles and the SM-6 anti-aircraft missile. The first vessel is due for delivery in 2014, with the following vessels to be delivered in 2016 and 2017. Construction will be by ASC Pty Ltd),[1] although will involve a significant amount of work sub-contracted to other companies and locations. The three units are to be named Hobart, Brisbane and Sydney.

Amphibious warfare[edit]

Computer-generated illustration of the planned Canberra class amphibious ships

The RAN's amphibious capabilities will be greatly increased by a new class of two Canberra class amphibious vessels. These ships, based on Navantia's Strategic Projection Ship (later commissioned into the Spanish Navy as Spanish ship Juan Carlos I, are to displace approximately 27,000 tonnes, will transport 1,000 personnel and 150 vehicles, and can transport these ashore through landing craft carried in a well deck, or helicopters, with up to six operating simultaneously from each ship's flight deck. The new ships, named HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, will be built at Navantia's shipyard in Spain, then transported to Tenix Defence facilities in Victoria for finishing. The two ships will replace HMAS Tobruk and one of the Kanimbla class amphibious vessels. The second Kanimbla class ship is to be replaced by a strategic sealift vessel of 10,000 to 15,000 tons displacement, which will provide the capacity to transport equipment, supplies, helicopters, and soldiers into zones of operation, and embark or disembark these without port facilities. The RAN will also replace the six Balikpapan class heavy landing craft with six larger vessels. In mid-2011, the RAN acquired the former British Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship RFA Largs Bay, which entered service in December 2011 as HMAS Choules.

Minor vessels[edit]

The Armidale class patrol boat HMAS Armidale

Between 1999 and 2003, the RAN acquired six Huon class minehunters.[2] Based on Intermarine SpA's Gaeta class minehunters, each ship is equipped with a variable depth sonar, and a pair of Bofors Double Eagle underwater clearance vehicles.[2]

Up to the turn of the 21st century, the RAN's main patrol force was made up of the Fremantle class. However, these have been replaced by the new Armidale class. The first of these, HMAS Armidale, was commissioned in June 2005, and was the first of fourteen. These vessels are significantly more capable than the Fremantle class, and better equipped for a greater range of sea conditions.

The 2009 Defence White Paper announced that a new class of 20 Offshore Combatant Vessels would replace the Armidale and Huon classes, along with the Leeuwin and Paluma class survey ships.[3] The multi-role ships are predicted to displace anywhere up to 2,000 tonnes, and may be equipped with a helicopter or unmanned aerial vehicle.[3]


Collins class submarine HMAS Sheean

The Collins class submarines, the first of which entered service in 1996, are due to receive a major upgrade to their combat systems, with technology based on the US Navy's Virginia class. This new system will be introduced in conjunction with the new heavyweight torpedo.

In the longer term, the Collins class submarines will begin to reach the end of their useful life in 2026.[4] In order to meet an in-service date of 2026, advanced design work on the next generation of Australian submarines will begin by 2014–15. The submarines are likely to be Australian-built, conventional submarines equipped with air independent propulsion and advanced combat and communications systems.[5] Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon ordered planning to begin on the next generation of submarines to replace the Royal Australian Navy's Collins-class fleet. The 17-year project will be the largest, longest and most expensive defence acquisition since Australia's Federation, potentially costing up to $25 billion. The submarines are expected to be capable of carrying long-range cruise missiles and midget-subs.[6]

According to the 2009 Defence White Paper, the submarine fleet is to be expanded to 12. The submarines will be equipped with cruise missiles and the world's most advanced torpedoes, sonars, combat systems, intelligence gathering systems as well as also being able to support special forces operations. The first submarine is expected to be in service by 2024 with the decommissioning of HMAS Collins. The 2009 White Paper predicted the cost of the new submarines at $35 billion.

Afloat Support[edit]

The RAN currently has two ships used for afloat support/replenishment at sea; HMAS Sirius is a fleet oiler, with a limited dry stores capability, while HMAS Success is a general dry stores/fuel replenishment vessel. The navy has initiated a project that will ultimately see two new purpose built vessels enter service by 2020. Sirius was purchased second hand (double hulled to meet new international regulations) in 2005 as MT Delos and converted to replace HMAS Westralia in 2006. Then, as Sirius reaches the end of its service life around 2018, a new vessel will be purpose built. At around the same time (approximately 2015), a replacement for Success will be constructed.

Fleet Air Arm[edit]

One of the RAN's MRH-90s in 2011

The Fleet Air Arm is currently an all rotary winged organisation. Currently S-70B-2 Seahawks helicopters are the combat helicopters of the Air Arm. The Seahawks are being upgraded with FLIR and enhanced ECM, to improve both their surveillance and self-defence capabilities. In the 2009 Defence White Paper the Australian Government stated that it will urgently acquire at least 24 new naval combat helicopters.[7]

The Navy's Sea Kings, which have been in service for twenty years, will be replaced by six marinised MRH 90 helicopters by 2010. These aircraft are to be purchased as part a joint Army-Navy helicopter purchase.[8]

The 2009 Defence White Paper, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, stated that the RAN needed to replace its 16 Seahawk helicopters with at least 24 new helicopters by 2014. In June 2011 the Australian government announced the purchase of 24 MH-60R "Romeo" Seahawk helicopters as a replacement for the S-70-B2.

List of major current and future projects[edit]

(Updated to reflect changes made in the Defence Capability Plan – June 2011 Supplement)

  • JP 2048 – Amphibious Deployment and Sustainment program
    • Phase 3: LCM-8 replacement – Amphibious Watercraft Replacement
      • Spanish LCM-1E type selected and an order for 12 was made September 2011.[9][10]
    • Phase 4A: HMAS Tobruk replacement – HMAS Canberra
      • Hull launched 17 February 2011. Currently fitting out Navantia, Ferrol.
    • Phase 4B: HMAS Kanimbla replacement – HMAS Adelaide
      • Keel laid down 18 February 2011, Hull launched 4 July 2012.
    • Phase 4C: HMAS Manoora replacement – Strategic Sea Lift capability
      • Budget for capability increased from $300–$500m to $1–$2b (Note: new budget is about the cost of an LHD)
    • Phase 5: Balikpapan class landing craft replacement – 6 new LCH design
      • RFI assessment completed. RFP to be issued early 2012.[9]
  • JP 3030HMAS Choules procurement
    • Phase 1: Purchase complete.
      • Refit in Falmouth, UK completed, and vessel handed over to the Australian government. As of late November 2011, Choules was at sea on the delivery voyage with her arrival set for 10 December 2011 and her commissioning as HMAS Choules (L100) on 13 December 2011.
  • Sea 1000 – Design and Procurement of Future Submarine
    • Phase 1 & 2: Phase 1 (Design) and Phase 2 (Acquisition) has been combined. Decision not due until 2017–2020 or so.
  • Sea 1180Patrol Boat, Mine Hunter and Hydrographic Vessel Replacement Project
  • Sea 1360 – Maritime Extended Range Air Defence (Standard SM-6 for Hobart class destroyer)
    • Phase 1: Project definition stage. Budget for capability reduced from $1–$2b to $500m-$1b.
  • Sea 1439 – Installation of new combat system for Collins class submarines
    • Phase 4A: Replacement Combat System.
      • Currently underway, IOC has been achieved and FOC expected by 2013.
      • Replacement system is the same AN/BYG-1v8 system fitted to the Virginia-class SSN.
    • Phase 4B: Weapon & Sensor Enhancements.
      • Currently underway.
    • Phase 6: Sonar Replacement.
      • Given first-pass approval.
  • Sea 1448 – Anzac-class Frigate capability upgrades
    • Phase 2B: Anzac-class Anti-Ship Missile Defence upgrade
      • HMAS Perth successfully completed trials of ASMD upgrade in July 2011.
      • The upgrade of the other seven Anzac-class frigates has been given government approval.[11] The upgrade is due to begin early 2012 and be complete by 2017.
    • Phase 4A: ES system improvement given first-pass approval.
    • Phase 4B: AN/SPS-49 (Air Search Radar) replacement budget increased from $100–$300m to $300–$500m.
  • Sea 1654 – Maritime Operational Support Capability
    • Phase 3: HMAS Success replacement
      • Capability decision and IOC schedule brought forward. Market solicitation should be imminent.
  • Sea 4000 – Design and procurement of new Air Warfare Destroyers
    • Phase 3: Acquisition and build of AWD
      • Construction of first of class (Hobart) underway but with slight schedule slip due to sub-contractor problems.
      • Testing of major systems on schedule. Delivery of some weapon systems and electronics.[12]
    • Phase 4: Acquisition of Maritime-based Strategic Strike (land-attack cruise missiles)
      • RFP to be issued 2014.
  • Sea 5000 – Future Frigate – (Anzac class frigate replacement)
  • Air 9000 – Future Naval Aviation Combat System
    • Phase 6: Sea King replacement program
      • 6 MRH-90 to be operated. All Sea Kings to be retired by December 2011.
    • Phase 8: Seahawk/Super Seasprite replacement program.
      • Sikorsky MH-60R selected. 24 to be purchased.

A full listing of all current Projects is available at the Defence Materiel Organisation website.

Recently completed projects[edit]


  1. ^ Navy unveils $11b warship contract, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, accessed 20 June 2007.
  2. ^ a b Saunders, Stephen (ed.) (2008). Jane's Fighting Ships 2008–2009. Jane's Fighting Ships (111th ed.). Surrey: Jane's Information Group. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7106-2845-9. OCLC 225431774. 
  3. ^ a b Department of Defence (2 May 2009). Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. Commonwealth of Australia. pp. 72–3. ISBN 978-0-642-29702-0. OCLC 426475923. 
  4. ^ Submarine Institute of Australia. Australia’s Future Underwater Warfare Capability – Project SM 2020
  5. ^ Patrick Walters (2006). Cutting Edge: The Collins experance. Australian Security Policy Institute, Canberra. Pages 10–11.
  6. ^,23599,22971744-421,00.html?from=mostpop.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  7. ^ Australian Government Defence White Paper 2009 page: 72
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ a b Brown, Phill (30 June 2011). "Amphibious Deployment & Sustainment Program". Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Clare, Jason (27 September 2011). "LHD Watercraft and Enhanced Joint Operations Centre Command and Control Capability Projects Approved". Department of Defence. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Clare, Jason (28 November 2011). "New Cutting Edge Missile Defence System for ANZAC Ships". Department of Defence. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Wavelength – ASC News (Australian Submarine Corporation). Winter. 2011 |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 16 August 2011.