The first of three new Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs), HMAS Hobart, was officially commissioned into Royal Australian Navy service on Saturday, a proud occasion when the white ensign flew from the ship for the first time and she officially became Navy property.
The commissioning ceremony, at the Navy’s Fleet Base East on Sydney Harbour, was attended by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin and Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett.
Hobart’s inaugural commanding officer, Captain John Stavridis, said his new ship was outstanding – a sentiment he said was shared by his 185 crewmen and women.
“The more time we spend operating the platform and understanding Aegis, the more we realise how capable this ship is,” CAPT Stavridis told sister magazine Australian Defence Business Review in an interview ahead of the commissioning ceremony.
“It is an outstanding ship; that’s not to talk down our current surface combatants but rather a reflection of what this new capability brings.”
HMAS Hobart achieves initial operational release (IOR) on commissioning, which will be followed by Navy Operational Test and Evaluation (NOTE) trials, covering first of class platform trials, integration of the MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ helicopter, gunnery and more. That culminates with US Navy combat system ship qualification trials (CSSQT, pronounced sea-squat) conducted on the instrumented range off the US west coast.
“It will put us and our ship to the test. We will of course conduct a significant amount of team training well before that period. In fact that’s already started,” CAPT Stavridis said.
“When we pass those serials and prove ourselves and Aegis, our Chief will be able to recommend IOC to government. That is the milestone which means Hobart is ready for operations.”
Final operational capability (FOC) will occur when all three ships – which the Navy now officially refers to as DDGs (guided-missile destroyers), are ready for operations.
The DDGs are based on the Navantia Alvaro de Bazan class F-100 frigate, which was selected in mid-2007.
They are being built by the AWD Alliance, a consortium of Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, ASC Shipbuilding and Raytheon.
Delays with the shipbuilding process saw the SEA 4000 program to acquire the AWD placed on the government’s projects of concern list. But a reform program implemented in 2015, with Navantia playing a greater role providing shipbuilding management services and internal reforms at ASC Shipbuilding, has seen it turned around.
“Navantia Australia is very proud of our role as ship designer and shipbuilding management services provider for the AWD Alliance,” Donato Martínez, Navantia Australia’s managing director, said in a statement marking the commissioning.
“Through our experience in the AWD program, Navantia Australia has developed strong partnerships with Australian industry and a deep understanding of the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Defence Force requirements.”
Hull blocks for all three ships, which have been assembled by at ASC at Osborne, South Australia were also built by Forgacs at Newcastle and BAE Systems at Williamtown, Melbourne.
Builder’s sea trials for for the second ship in the class, NUSHIP Brisbane, are expected to begin late this year.
An indepth feature on the Air Warfare Destroyer program by Max Blenkin will appear in the September-October issue of Australian Defence Business Review.