Australia retires a leading air defense and undersea warfare frigate

The Royal Australian Navy [RAN] has officially retired one of its most distinguished warships, the HMAS Anzac [III], renowned for its air defense and undersea warfare capabilities. This frigate affectionately dubbed the “First Lady of the Fleet,” has been decommissioned after 28 years of steadfast service, as announced by Australia’s Ministry of Defence. The heartfelt ceremony took place at its home port, HMAS Stirling, in Perth. 

Australia retires a leading air defense and undersea warfare frigate
Photo by ABIS Rikki-Lea Phillips

Throughout its esteemed service, the ship undertook numerous deployments and operations, most notably deploying to the Persian Gulf in October 2002. Dubbed “Five Inch Friday,” this mission marked a historical moment as it was the first combat support for naval weapons by the Royal Australian Navy since the Vietnam War.

HMAS Anzac (III)

The HMAS Anzac [III], proudly serving the Royal Australian Navy, owes its name to the historic Australian and New Zealand Army Corps [ANZAC]. It’s the third of its name, a member of the Anzac class of frigates tailored for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. 

When it comes to dimensions, the HMAS Anzac [III] measures up to 118 meters [387 feet] in length, 14.8 meters [48.6 feet] across the beam, and has a draft of 4.35 meters [14.3 feet]. This makes it a compact yet highly versatile vessel, ready for various missions. 

With a standard displacement of around 3,600 tons and a full load displacement nearing 3,810 tons, the HMAS Anzac [III] can carry an array of equipment and armament without sacrificing agility or speed. 

The ship is powered by a Combined Diesel or Gas [CODOG] propulsion system, featuring two MTU 12V 1163 TB83 diesel engines and one General Electric LM2500 gas turbine. This robust combination allows the HMAS Anzac [III] to achieve speeds exceeding 27 knots [50 km/h] and offers an impressive range of about 6,000 nautical miles [11,000 km] at a cruising speed of 18 knots [33 km/h].

Australia retires a leading air defense and undersea warfare frigate
Photo by Able Seaman Phillip Cullinan

Equipment, armament, and ship’s crew

The ship is equipped with a variety of advanced systems and components. These include the 9LV 453 Mk3E combat management system, which integrates various sensors and weapon systems for effective combat operations. It also features the CEAFAR phased-array radar and the CEAMOUNT illuminator, which enhance its detection and targeting capabilities. 

The frigate is armed with a variety of weapons to fulfill its multi-role capabilities. Its primary armament includes a 5-inch [127 mm] Mark 45 Mod 2 naval gun, which is effective against surface and air targets. It also has an 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System [VLS] for Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles [ESSM], Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and two triple torpedo tubes for MU90 Impact torpedoes. 

Australia retires a leading air defense and undersea warfare frigate
Photo by LSIS Paul McCallum

The ship’s crew consists of approximately 170 personnel, including officers and enlisted sailors. The  crew’s responsibilities are diverse and include navigation, engineering, weapon operation, and maintenance. Specific roles include the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Weapons Engineer, Combat Systems Operator, and various technical and support staff, all working together to ensure the ship’s operational readiness and effectiveness.

Farewell and continuity

The Chief of the Australian Navy, Vice-Admiral Mark Hammond, expressed his pride in the crew of HMAS Anzac [III], acknowledging their dedication to safeguarding Australia’s maritime interests over the years. 

“An Australian warship is not just a strategic asset, but also a home, a sanctuary for those at sea, and a floating representation of Australia abroad. Since its commissioning in 1996, thousands of men and women have called this ship ‘home,’ marking significant milestones in their lives. I extend my gratitude to each of them and their families for their unwavering support,” said Vice-Admiral Hammond. 

The decommissioning of HMAS Anzac will usher in new investments aimed at expanding and enhancing the Navy’s fleet, following the Independent Review of the Navy’s Surface Combatant Fleet recommendations. 


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