The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) first-of-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart successfully completed sea acceptance trials off the coast of South Australia this week, according to a March 6 press release by the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Alliance, the consortium responsible for building and delivering the new destroyer class.
“Over the past five weeks, the AWD Alliance has conducted some 20 platform system tests and 45 combat system tests, to successfully validate Hobart’s complete Mission System. Combined, these systems will deliver a world leading capability for the Royal Australian Navy,” AWD Alliance General Manager Paul Evans noted. The AWD Alliance consortium coordinates the work of Spanish ship maker Navantia, the Australian shipbuilder ASC, mission systems integrator Raytheon Australia, U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and the Australian Department of Defense.
The 7,000-ton Hobart-class is based on the Navantia-designed Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate (aka F-100) currently in service with the Spanish Navy. The new air warfare destroyers “will be multi-purpose weapons platforms that can be used for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations, as well as gunfire support roles, next to the defending naval task forces from aircraft and missile attacks,” I explained elsewhere. As I reported previously (See: “Australia’s Most Powerful Warship Completes Sea Trials”), the Hobart successfully completed builder’s sea trials in September 2016.
The Hobart-class program suffered from repeated delays since its inception. One of the consequences of the multiple delays has been that the Hobart-class’ Aegis combat system — an automated command-and-control (C2) and weapons control system offering integrated air and missile defense capabilities to surface warships — purchased by the Australian Department of Defense is purportedly outdated and will likely need to be expensively upgraded, given that the U.S. Navy already developed a more advanced version of Aegis. Lockheed Martin began testing and integrating the Aegis combat system aboard the lead vessel of the class in March 2016.
Total procurement costs are estimated at over $8 billion, making this Australia’s most expensive weapons program to date. Approximately half of that amount has been earmarked for major upgrades following the ships’ commissioning. The Hobart-class will be the RAN’s first surface warship to be built around the Aegis combat system. Each ship will be equipped with the AN/SPY-1, an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar system, which will be paired with the MK 41 Vertical Launching System, capable of firing Raytheon’s Standard Missiles (SM) of all variants as well as the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. The SPY-1 is the heart of the Aegis combat system.
The Hobart is expected to be delivered to the RAN this June. Its sister ships, the HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Sydney, are slated for delivery in September 2018 and March 2020.