The Hobart Class guided missile destroyers will provide the Navy with one of the world’s most capable multi-purpose warships, enhancing the air defence, surface, subsurface and interoperability of the Royal Australian Navy for decades to come. Here is a closer look at Australia's lethal new surface combatants.
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Australia's Hobart Class guided missile destroyers (DDG) are based on Navantia's F100 Alvaro De Bazan Class of frigates and incorporate the Lockheed Martin Aegis Combat Management System with Australian-specific equipment to ensure that the RAN is capable of defending Australia and its national interests well into the next two decades.
The Hobart Class' Spanish counterparts entered service with the Spanish Navy beginning in the early 2000s, working alongside key NATO and US maritime assets.
When deployed to the Persian Gulf, the F100s became the first foreign Aegis-equipped ships to fully integrate into a US Navy Carrier Strike Group, while the class has also successfully deployed as the flagship of NATO's Maritime Group Standing Reaction Force, highlighting the individual and interoperable capabilities of Navy's new destroyers.
The vessels will be capable across the full spectrum of joint maritime operations, from area air defence and escort duties, right through to peacetime national tasking and diplomatic missions.
The Hobart Class Combat System is built around the Aegis Weapon System, incorporating the state-of-the-art phased array radar, AN/ SPY 1D(V), will provide an advanced air defence system capable of engaging enemy aircraft and missiles at ranges in excess of 150 kilometres.
Additionally, the vessels will carry a MH-60R Romeo Seahawk helicopter for surveillance and response to support key warfare areas. The surface warfare function will include long range anti-ship missiles and a naval gun capable of firing extended range munitions in support of land forces.
The Hobart Class will also be capable of conducting undersea warfare and will be equipped with modern sonar systems provided by Ultra Electronics, decoys, surface-launched torpedoes and an array of effective close-in defensive weapons. These capabilities will ensure the destroyers have the layered defensive and offensive resources required to counter conventional and asymmetric threats.
While based upon the Spanish F100s, the Australian vessels incorporate a number of modifications and Australian-specific structural/design and combat system modifications to provide a uniquely Australian surface combatant with international provenance.
Structural/design modifications: Integrating key structural and design modifications developed as part of the F105 evolution of the original F100 design, including:
- Installation of more efficient and powerful diesel engines combined with improved fuel tank arrangements providing increased range;
- Inclusion of a bow thruster to improve manoeuvrability in harbours;
- Improvements to underway replenishment facilities to improve manpower efficiency;
- Modifications to funnel tops to improve the ship's air wake; and
- Increased bunk size to improve crew comfort and habitability.
Combat system modifications: Built around the Aegis Weapon System Baseline 7.1 and the AN/SPY-1D(V) Phased Array Radar, the Hobart Class includes a number of additions and modifications to the combat system to improve the offensive and defensive capabilities and interoperability of the vessels, including:
- Enhanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities, including ASW decoys and torpedo defence;
- Enhanced undersea communications;
- Integration of the MU90 torpedo;
- Modification of the MK45 gun and gun fire control system, including provision for extended range munitions (ERM);
- Addition of the Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC), which is essential for integration with allied task groups, particularly US Navy Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Groups;
- Modification of the IFF UPX-29 to the current tactical standard;
- Addition of a horizon search radar (HSR) for improved anti-ship missile defence;
- Upgrades to the surface-to-surface missile system to improve target selectivity in congested water, littoral and coastal operations;
- Upgrades to the very short range defence system to improve its integration and utility against asymmetric surface threats;
- Upgrades to the electronic warfare system, including the addition of electronic attack capabilities;
- Addition of X/Ka Satcom and INMARSAT Fleet Broadband and INMARSAT C capability;
- Improved infrared search and track capabilities;
- Improved electro-optical surveillance capability; and
- Addition of Nulka decoy launchers for active missile decoys.
Hobart Class unique platform modifications: Given the unique operating environments and capability requirements placed on Australian surface vessels, the Hobart Class have integrated a series of unique modifications, including:
- Increasing the ship's displacement to 7,000 tonnes to improve service life;
- Cold weather operation infrastructure to allow for deployment into Australia's southern waters;
- Hangar modifications to accommodate a ranger of helicopters;
- Increased total cold room capacity to improve endurance;
- Incorporation of a fixed gas detection system to warn of the presence of harmful gases in compartments where personnel exposure risks exist;
- Modification of the 220V/50Hz network to 240V/50 Hz, incorporation of residual current devices (RCD) and the Australian pin configuration for general purpose outlets; and
- Modification of existing stowage, and increases in the overall number of stowage facilities, for thermal protective suit and life raft containers.
Despite procurement and construction problems, Australia's Hobart Class destroyers will provide a quantum leap in the capability of the Navy's surface fleet, serving as a task force air defence screen, secondary command and control hub and invaluable surface and subsurface warfare asset. The Hobart Class have a long and promising career ahead of them, as the government officially accepted delivery of the second vessel, NUSHIP Brisbane in Adelaide on Friday.