Military Wiki
Adelaide-class frigate
HMAS Darwin F-04.jpg
HMAS Darwin, the fourth ship in the Adelaide class
Class overview
Name: Adelaide class Guided Missile Frigate
Builders: Todd Pacific Shipyards, Seattle, Washington
Australian Marine Engineering Consolidated
Operators:  Royal Australian Navy
Preceded by: Daring class destroyer
Succeeded by: Hobart class destroyer
Built: 21 June 1978 – 21 February 1992
In service: 15 November 1980 – present
In commission: 15 November 1980 – present
Completed: 6
Active: 4
Retired: 2
General characteristics
Class & type: Modified Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigate
Displacement: 4,100 tons full load
Length: 408 ft (124 m) at waterline
455 ft (139 m) overall
Beam: 45 ft (14 m)
Draught: 22 ft (6.7 m)
Propulsion: 2 × General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, each providing 20,500 hp (15,287 kW). Total 41,000 hp (30,574 kW)
Speed: Over 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph)
Range: 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Complement: 176–221
Sensors and
processing systems:
AN/SPS-49 radar, Mk 92 fire control system, AN/SPS-55 radar, AN/SQS-56 sonar
Armament: Mk 41 VLS (Evolved Sea Sparrow missile)
Mk 13 missile launcher (40-missile magazine, Harpoon and SM-1 missiles)
1 × 3 in OTO Melara
1 × 20 mm Mk 15 Vulcan Phalanx
2 x triple 324 mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes
Aircraft carried: 2 x S-70B Seahawk or 1 x Seahawk and 1 x AS350B Squirrel
Notes: Mk 41 VLS and ESSM capability installed during the FFG Upgrade project

The Adelaide class is a ship class of six guided missile frigates constructed in Australia and the United States of America for service in the Royal Australian Navy. The class is based on the United States Navy's Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, but modified for Australian requirements. The first four vessels were built in the United States, while the other two were constructed in Australia.

The first ship entered service in November 1980, and four of the six ships are active as of 2012. Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, and later sunk as dive wrecks: their decommissioning was to offset the cost of an A$1 billion weapons and equipment upgrade to the remaining four ships. The four surviving ships will be replaced by the Hobart class air-warfare destroyer from 2016 onwards.

Construction and acquisition

Following the cancellation of the Australian light destroyer project in 1973, the British Type 42 destroyer and the American Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate were identified as alternatives.[1] Although the Type 42 met the RAN's requirements as a replacement for the cancelled light destroyers and the Daring class destroyers, fitting the ship with the SM-1 missile would have been difficult.[1] On the other hand, the Perry class was still at the design stage; a design that was described by assessment project staff as "a second rate escort that falls short of the DDL [light destroyer] requirements on virtually every respect".[1][2] Despite this, the Australian government approved the purchase of two US-built Perry class ships in 1974.[1]

The risk of acquiring an unproven design was seen as acceptable because of the success of the USN's Charles F. Adams class destroyer (of which the RAN operated three ships as the Perth class), when compared to the equivalent British ships the RAN would have purchased.[2] Final government approval to order two ships was granted in 1976, with a third ship ordered in 1977.[3] The order was later expanded with the order of a fourth unit.[4] These four ships were built by Todd Pacific Shipyards of Seattle, Washington, as part of the USN's shipbuilding program, and were assigned USN hull numbers during construction, which were replaced with RAN pennant numbers upon entering service.[5] The first, HMAS Adelaide (USN hull number FFG-17, RAN pennant number FFG 01) was built to the Flight I design, while Canberra (FFG-18/FFG 02) and Sydney (FFG-35/FFG 03) were the first and last ships of the Flight II design, respectively.[5] The final American-built ship was Darwin (FFG-44/FFG 04); constructed to the Flight III design.[5] In 1980, two more ships (Torrens and Newcastle) were ordered, but were built in Australia by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria, and did not receive USN numbers.[4][5] Prior to launch, Torrens was renamed Melbourne, as the aircraft carrier of the same name was still commissioned when the Adelaide class was ordered, but left service in 1982.


Since the withdrawal of the Perth class destroyers, these ships are the RAN's primary air defence vessels, armed with a Mark 13 missile launcher for SM-2 missiles. They also have significant surface capability, being armed with a 76-millimetre (3.0 in) Mk 75 gun and the Harpoon ASM (also fired by the Mark 13 launcher), and a pair of triple torpedo tubes for ASW. In addition, a pair of S-70B Seahawk helicopters are carried.

HMAS Canberra firing a Harpoon anti-ship missile

From 2005 onwards, all RAN frigates deploying to the Persian Gulf are fitted with two M2HB .50 calibre machine guns in Mini Typhoon mounts, installed on the aft corners of the hangar roof.[6] Two TopLite EO directors are used with the guns.[6]

The Australian frigates were originally fitted with American Mark 46 anti-submarine torpedoes, but by 2008, they had been replaced with the European MU90 Impact torpedo in three of the four frigates as part of the FFG Upgrade, with the conversion of Newcastle underway at that point.[7]


There have been two major upgrades distinguishing the Adelaide class from the American Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates.


The first three ships were constructed to the Perry class' 'short' hull design (Flight I and II), with an identical length for both the main deck and the keel.[5] Ships from FFG-36 onwards (including Darwin) were built with an increase in overall length—achieved by angling the transom (the section between the fantail and the keel) to increase the area of the flight deck and allow the operation of Seahawk helicopters.[5] Adelaide, Canberra, and Sydney were later upgraded to match the slightly larger ships, and were fitted with the updated sonars and ESM systems of the Flight III design.[5]

FFG Upgrade

HMAS Sydney's Mk 41 VLS in 2007

In the mid-1990s, the Australian government commenced SEA 1390, also known as the FFG Upgrade Project.[8] Originally costing A$1 billion, which has expanded to A$1.46 billion, the project includes improvements to the combat and fire control system, the sonar suite, and the air defence missiles.[8] The upgrade was for four ships and intended to expand their service life to approximately 2020.[8] The project cost was partly offset by the decommissioning of the two oldest units:[9] Canberra paying off in 2005 and Adelaide in 2008. Modification of each ship took place at Garden Island Dockyard, with Australian Defence Industries (ADI, now Thales Australia) selected as project leader for the upgrade phase of the project.[8]

After the refit, the ships are capable of firing SM-2MR and RGM-84 Harpoon missiles from the Mark 13 launcher.[8] An 8-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System for Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile has also been installed forward of the Mark 13 launcher.[8] The Phalanx CIWS was upgraded to Block 1B,[verification needed] and the torpedoes, missiles, and other ship-mounted weapons were upgraded to the latest versions.[8]

By January 2008, the FFG Upgrade Project was running at least four years behind schedule.[10] The frigates' anti-missile and anti-torpedo detection and defence systems could not be integrated as intended, leaving the ships vulnerable to attack.[10] The first ship refitted, HMAS Sydney, was initially not accepted back into service by the RAN because of the problems, which have also prevented any refitted ship from serving in a combat zone.[11] Australian Defence Association executives and serving navy personnel have blamed both political parties for the problems: while the Howard Liberal government was responsible for the project, the preceding Labor government chose to maintain the frigates instead replacing them with the more expensive and much more labour-intensive, but more capable Kidd class destroyers in the early 1990s.[8][11]

HMA Ships Sydney (foreground) and Darwin alongside at Fleet Base East in 2011

By November 2008, Darwin's upgrade had been completed, while the problems experienced with Sydney had been rectified in both ships.[12] It is planned to start deploying these warships to the Gulf in 2009.[12] The RAN and Thales subsequently claimed that the two upgraded ships were the "most capable ships in the history of the RAN", and that once the other two Adelaides were upgraded, the navy would possess the "most lethal frigate fleet on earth".[12] It was reported at the same time that other nations operating guided missile frigates, including the United States, Canada, Greece, and Turkey, were considering similar upgrades.[12]


Canberra and Adelaide were decommissioned to offset the cost of upgrading the remaining four ships, with Canberra decommissioned on 12 November 2005 and Adelaide on 19 January 2008.[9][13]

Adelaide submerging off Avoca Beach on 13 April 2011

Canberra was subsequently sunk as a dive wreck on 4 October 2009, 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) off Ocean Grove, Victoria, in 30 metres (98 ft) of water.[14] Adelaide was converted into a dive wreck, but plans to scuttle her off Avoca Beach, New South Wales in April 2010 were postponed following protests by resident action groups and a tribunal hearing, which ordered the removal of wiring and paint from sections of the frigate before she was sunk on 13 April 2011.[15][16][17]

The four upgraded Adelaide class frigates will be replaced by three new Hobart class air defence destroyers, equipped with the Aegis combat system, starting around 2016.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Jones, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 220
  2. 2.0 2.1 Frame, Pacific Partners, pgs. 102, 162
  3. Frame, Pacific Partners, p. 162
  4. 4.0 4.1 MacDougall, Australians at war, p. 344
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Hooton, Perking-up the Perry class
  6. 6.0 6.1 Scott, 'Enhanced small-calibre systems offer shipborne stopping power
  7. Fish & Grevatt, Australia's HMAS Toowoomba test fires MU90 torpedo
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Australia's Hazard(ous) Frigate Upgrade, in Defense Industry Daily
  9. 9.0 9.1 Saunders (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 2008–2009, p. 28
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kirk & staff, Dud frigates an inherited nightmare
  11. 11.0 11.1 McPhedran, Frigates 'can't go to war' despite $1.4bn upgrade
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 McPhedran, Australia's naval frigates 'worth the wait'
  13. Australian Department of Defence, HMAS Adelaide Decommissions
  14. Draper, 'Old Warship sunk off Victoria's coast
  15. Harvey & West, Judge orders tough new rules for scuttling
  16. Fish, Australia's Adelaide ends 27 years of service
  17. Westbrook, Dolphins frolic, protesters sunk as frigate sent to the bottom


  • Frame, Tom (1992). Pacific Partners: a history of Australian-American naval relations. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-56685-X. OCLC 27433673. 
  • Jones, Peter (2001). "1972–1983: Towards Self-Reliance". In Stevens, David. The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-555542-2. OCLC 50418095. 
  • MacDougall, Anthony Keith (2002) [1991]. Australians at war: a pictorial history (2nd (revised and expanded) ed.). Noble Park, Vic: The Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-865-2. OCLC 260099887. 
  • Saunders, Stephen, ed (2008). Jane's Fighting Ships 2008–2009. Jane's Fighting Ships (111th ed.). Surrey: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2845-9. OCLC 225431774. 
Journal articles
  • Fish, Tim; Grevatt, Jon (24 June 2008). "Australia's HMAS Toowoomba test fires MU90 torpedo". Jane's Information Group. 
  • Fish, Tim (1 March 2008). "Australia's Adelaide ends 27 years of service". Jane's Navy International. Jane's Information Group. 
  • Hooton, E.R. (1 December 1996). "Perking-up the Perry class". Jane's Information Group. 
  • Scott, Richard (12 December 2007). "Enhanced small-calibre systems offer shipborne stopping power". Jane's Information Group. 
News articles
Websites and other media

Further reading

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).