All three Hobart-class destroyers built under the Air Warfare Destroyer program have joined the Royal Australian Navy, with the final ship, the HMAS Sydney, being commissioned at sea yesterday.

Minister for Defence Senator Linda Reynolds said the commissioning of the ship, which took place in the waters of Jervis Bay, New South Wales, marks the beginning of a new era for the Navy.

“The Navy is now equipped with a new level of flexibility and lethality to protect maritime task groups operating in an increasingly complex region, while also allowing us to work even closer with our allies.”

HMAS Sydney off the coast of her namesake city of  Sydney, NSW during her commissioning ceremony. (Photo: ABIS Jarrod Mulvihill/Commonwealth of Australia)

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, RAN said as the fifth warship to bear this name, she inherits an important legacy.

“She is designed to protect task groups by providing air defence to accompanying ships, in addition to land forces and infrastructure in coastal areas, and self-protection against missiles and aircraft.”

“Sydney was technically upgraded during her build to integrate the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ Seahawk submarine-hunting helicopter and her Close-in Weapons Systems, making her Australia’s most lethal ship,” Vice Admiral Noonan added.

The MH-60R upgrades were primarily to improve the storage of Mk54 torpedoes and AGM-114N Hellfire missiles for the Air Warfare Destroyer’s MH-60R naval combat helicopter. Among the modifications to the ships, based on the Navantia F100 design, included an Otto fuel detector being fully integrated into the ships’ management systems and Otto fuel spill kits properly integrated into the magazine to take into the account the fuel being used by the torpedoes.

In addition, the upgrades also included a change to ship’s the external lighting systems, in particular the flight deck lights, to be more compatible with night vision devices.

The first destroyer, HMAS Hobart, already had these upgrades performed during its first maintenance cycle in 2019, with second-in-class HMAS Brisbane expected to receive similar upgrades soon. Prior to the changes, the destroyers are able to deploy with the MH-60R together with Mk54s and Hellfires, although not with the full combat load.

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Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.

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