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Fire in the Hole!

Royal Australian Navy Progresses With Area Air Defence Capability

Australia’s newest warship, HMAS Hobart (39), conducted her first Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) firing as a vital step to prove the capability of the ship and crew before proceeding on task group deployment. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) announced that the missile firing has been a test of capability before proceeding to the ship’s Unit Readiness Evaluation (URE). HMAS Hobart is the first of three Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs) constructed under acquisition project SEA 4000 by the AWD Alliance, which is comprised of ASC (primary shipbuilder), Raytheon Australia and the Australian Department of Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) and supported by Navantia Australia. Her keel was laid down on 6 September 2012 and the ship was launched on 23 May 2015. HMAS Hobart commissioned on 23 September 2017.

Based on the F100 frigate design of Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, Australia’s latest warship class will fill a significant capability gap in the fleet, according to the AWD Alliance. The three ships in the class will be able to provide an “anti-air and anti-missile shield within a 150-km radius” of the ships, “protecting Australian forces operating on land and at sea.” This inherent capability is provided by the ships’ Aegis Weapon System, paired with an AN/SPY-1D(V) phased array radar and one 48-cell Mk41 vertical launch system (VLS). The fitment consists of SM-2 and ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) rounds. It offers Australia an advanced at sea air defence system capable of engaging enemy aircraft and missiles at ranges in excess of 150 kilometres. Momentarily, the ships will lack the ballistic missile defence capability of US and Japanese Aegis-equipped destroyers, however, but this could be a significant capability expansion for the RAN in the future. The RAN’s vision is to implement SM-3 missiles to join the two naval partners in the 2020s. The RAN noted that the first-of-class has become the first warship to fire a missile in Australian waters. From now on, she will provide air defence for accompanying ships in addition to land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas, and for self-protection against missiles and aircraft.

Naval Forces Issue V will feature a full profile of Australia’s sea service in early September.

Stefan Nitschke

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