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HMAS Canberra (FFG 02)
HMAS Canberra (FFG 02)
HMAS Canberra in 1988
Career (Australia)
Namesake: City of Canberra
Builder: Todd Pacific Shipyards, Seattle, Washington
Laid down: 1 March 1978
Launched: 1 December 1978
Commissioned: 21 March 1981
Decommissioned: 12 November 2005
Motto: "For Queen And Country"
Nickname: FFG-18 (US hull designation during construction)
Honours and
Battle honours:
Persian Gulf 2002
plus four inherited battle honours
Fate: Sunk as dive wreck
General characteristics
Class & type: Adelaide class guided missile frigate
Displacement: 4,100 tons
Length: 138 m (453 ft)
Beam: 14.3 m (47 ft)
Draught: 7.5 m (25 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, each providing 20,500 hp (15,287 kW). Total 41,000 hp (30,574 kW)
Speed: Over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Complement: 184 + aircrew
Armament: Mk 13 launcher for Harpoon and SM-1MR missiles; 1 × 20 mm Mk 16 Mod 2 Phalanx CIWS; 2 x triple 324 mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes; 1 × MK75 76 mm rapid-fire naval artillery gun
Aircraft carried: 2 x S-70B Seahawk

HMAS Canberra (FFG 02) was an Adelaide class guided missile frigate of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Based on the Oliver Hazard Perry class design, Canberra was one of four Adelaide class ships constructed in the United States of America, and one of six to serve in the RAN.

The frigate entered service in 1981. During her career, Canberra was assigned to escort the Royal Yacht Britannia during Queen Elizabeth II's visit in 1988, helped enforce the post-Gulf War United Nations' sanctions against Iraq during 1992 and 1993, was part of the Australian responses to the 1998 Indonesian riots and the 2000 Solomon Islands Civil War, and returned to the Persian Gulf in 2002 as part of the War in Afghanistan.

In 2005, Canberra became the first ship of her class to be decommissioned. The frigate was marked for conversion into a dive wreck and artificial reef off Barwon Heads, Victoria, and was scuttled on 4 October 2009.

Design and construction

Following the cancellation of the DDL project in 1983, the RAN needed to procure a replacement for the Daring class destroyers.[1] Foreign designs were considered, with two designs shortlisted: the Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigate, and the Type 42 destroyer, modified to fire RIM-66 Standard missiles.[1] Although the Perry design did not meet the operating conditions set down for the DDL, the impracticality of modifying the Type 42 design prompted the Australian government to approve the acquisition of two Perry class ships: HMA Ships Adelaide and Canberra.[1] Four more ships were later ordered.

Canberra was laid down as the first ship of the Perry class's Flight II design by Todd Pacific Shipyards at Seattle, Washington on 1 March 1978, and launched on 1 December 1978.[2][3] Canberra was commissioned into the RAN on 21 March 1981.[2][4] The ship received the United States Navy hull number FFG-18 during construction.[3]


Canberra's main weapon is the Mark 13 missile launcher located on the foredeck: this is used to fire both Harpoon and SM-2MR Standard missiles.[2] A 76-millimetre (3.0 in) Mark 75 OTO Melara gun is located on top of the superstructure, in front of the exhaust funnel.[2][5] A triple-barrelled Mark 32 torpedo tube set is fitted to each side of the superstructure.[2][5] For close defence, a 20-millimetre (0.79 in) Mark 16 Mod 2 Phalanx CIWS sits at the aft end of the superstructure, above the frigate's two helicopter hangars.[2][5]

The hangars housed two S-70B Seahawk helicopters.[2]

Operational history

Canberra was assigned as escort to the Royal Yacht Britannia during Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Australia during April and May 1988, as part of the Australian Bicentennary celebrations.[6]

Canberra launching a Harpoon

On 16 May 1990, Canberra was one of six Australian warships, and one of 64 naval vessels from 21 nations present at the Royal Fleet Review marking the 55th anniversary of the Royal Malaysian Navy.[7]

Canberra was deployed to the Red Sea from 13 November 1992 to 12 March 1993 following the Gulf War, as part of the enforcement of the United Nations' sanctions against Iraq.[8]

In December 1993, Canberra and the destroyer HMAS Perth visited Langkawi, Malaysia, for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition.[9] During this assignment, ship's divers from Canberra assisted the Royal Malaysian Police in searching for and recovering the body of a merchant sailor who had fallen overboard from MV Leisureworld.[9] Following this, the two ships sailed for New Zealand, and were present in the Bay of Islands for Waitangi Day, which commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi there on 6 February 1840, which brought New Zealand into the British Empire.[10]

The frigate's home base was changed from Fleet Base East in New South Wales to Fleet Base West in Western Australia in February 1996.[11]

On 17 May 1998, the frigate was one of four RAN ships placed on standby to help evacuate Australian citizens from Indonesia following riots.[12][13] Canberra made at least one evacuation before the force was instructed to stand down a week later.[12][13]

Following the conclusion of the Solomon Islands Civil War in 2000, Canberra was the last Australian warship sent to the Solomons to support the International Peace Monitoring Team; arriving on 13 September 2001, and remaining on station until 24 October.[14] After returning to Australia for Christmas and the New Year, the frigate accompanied the replenishment oiler HMAS Westralia to Heard Island and McDonald Islands in January 2002, where the two ships spent a month enforcing Australian sovereign rights and fisheries laws in the islands' Exclusive Economic Zone.[15] Following this, Canberra joined sister ship Newcastle and the amphibious warfare ship Manoora on a three-month deployment to the Persian Gulf in support of the International Coalition Against Terrorism.[16]

In July 2003, while operating in northern Australian waters, Canberra intercepted Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV) 13, the first SIEV to be intercepted since December 2001.[17]

Canberra was decommissioned at Fleet Base West in Western Australia on 12 November 2005.[18]

Dive wreck

Canberra under tow to the scuttling site

In October 2006, it was announced that the decommissioned frigate will be scuttled off the coast of Barwon Heads, Victoria, to be used as a wreck diving site. In October 2006, the Federal Government allocated A$2.8 million to the project, while the Victorian Government allocated A$500,000.[19] On 23 July 2007, the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, announced that in order to ensure the quickest possible schedule for the sinking of the ship, A$7 million of federal money would be allocated to the project.[20]

The frigate was scheduled to be scuttled in 30 metres (98 ft) of water, 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) off Ocean Grove, Victoria on 13 September 2009, but this was postponed until 4 October because of foul weather.[12][21] Sixteen scuttling charges were detonated at 1400 hours, following a six-hour delay in towing the ship into position.[12] Canberra was inspected the next day by civilian clearance divers to ensure it had settled safely.[12] The wreck was opened to the public as a dive site on 5 December, after four mooring pylons for dive boats were installed and safety checks and remedial work were carried out.[22] In early 2011, Parks Victoria posted a warning that the port side of the hangar had separated from the rest of the superstructure, with frames and plating shifting up to 150 millimetres (5.9 in).[23] In mid-2011, Parks Victoria closed the dive site due to safety concerns following further degradation of the dumped frigate.[24] After assessment, the site was reopened on 24 October 2011.[25]

As part of an overhaul of the RAN battle honours system, completed in March 2010, Canberra was retroactively awarded the battle honour "Persian Gulf 2002" for her service during the war in Afghanistan.[26][27]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jones, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 220
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 HMAS Canberra (II), Royal Australian Navy
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hooton, Perking-up the Perry class
  4. No Name (FFG 18), United States Navy
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Jones, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, opp. p. 224
  6. Clark, The Fighting Canberras, pp. 15–16
  7. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 5
  8. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 16
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 19
  10. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 20
  11. Clark, The Fighting Canberras, p. 15
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Draper, Old Warship sunk off Victoria's coast
  13. 13.0 13.1 Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 34
  14. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 41
  15. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 45
  16. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 46
  17. Bendle et al., Database of Royal Australian Navy Operations, 1990–2005, p. 50
  18. ABC News, Navy ship heads home on last voyage
  19. Walker, Hopes for dive wreck scuttled
  20. Department of Defence, Howard Government To Fund And Sink ex-HMAS Canberra
  21. Geelong Advertiser, Scuttling of warship scuttled
  22. ABC News, New 'underwater playground' for scuba divers
  23. West, Call to stop scuttling as sister ship breaks up
  24. Ocean Grove Voice, Ship temporarily shut
  25. Best, Wreck re-opens
  26. "Navy Marks 109th Birthday With Historic Changes To Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  27. "Royal Australian Navy Ship/Unit Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 


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