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Thread: Australia ’s Hazard(ous) Frigate Upgrade

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    Australia ’s Hazard(ous) Frigate Upgrade

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    Australia ’s Hazard(ous) Frigate Upgrade

    25-Nov-2008 12:54 EST



    HMAS Adelaide
    (click to view full)

    The FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates make for a fascinating defense procurement case study. To this day, the ships are widely touted as a successful example of cost containment and avoidance of requirements creep – both of which have been major weaknesses in US Navy acquisition. The result was a capable 3,600t-4,100t anti-submarine platform, with some secondary air defense and anti-ship capabilities via its SM-1 Standard and RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, that could be bought in large enough numbers to fill the Navy’s needs. The ships’ hull twisting and cracking problems were solved early on, and they proved they could take a hit and stay afloat when the USS Stark was struck by 2 Iraqi Exocet missiles during the Iran / Iraq war. By FFG-36, the “FFG-7 Flight III (Long)” variant, with an extra 8 feet of length that let it accommodate larger and more capable SH-60 Seahawk helicopters instead of the SH-2 Sea Sprites, was the sole US production version.

    The bad news was the flip side of the good news. Very little reserved space for growth (39 tons in the original design), and the standard inflexible, proprietary electronics of the time, made updates problematic. So problematic, in fact, that the US Navy deemed upgrading their electronics, radars et. al. for new communications realities and advanced missile threats to be prohibitively expensive. Instead, they removed the 25 “FFG-7 Short” ships from inventory via bargain basement sales to allies or outright retirement, after an average of only 18 or so years of service. The remaining 30 ships received minor upgrades but had their no-longer standard SM-1 missiles removed – and with them, any air defense role. They do not operate in dangerous areas without cover from high-end AEGIS destroyers and cruisers.

    Australia ’s 6 ships of this class have served alongside Australia ’s more modern ANZAC Class frigates, which are undergoing upgrades of their own in hopes that it will help them handle the reality of modern anti-ship missiles. With the SEA 4000 Hobart Class air warfare frigates just a gleam in their eye, the government looked for a way to upgrade their FFG-7 “Adelaide Class” to keep them in service until 2020 or so. The A$ 1.46 billion SEA 1390 project has not gone very well… though the new Labor government is working to put a better face on it.

    * Australia ’s Adelaide Class & Its Upgrade Program
    * SEA 1390: The Issues
    * Updates and Developments [updated]
    * Additional Readings & Sources

    Australia’s Adelaide Class & Its Upgrade Program



    ESSM from FFG 3
    (click to view full)

    The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) acquired 4 United States Navy designed FFG-7 class frigates (FFG-7 Flight I: FFG-17 now FFG 1 Adelaide, FFG-18 now FFG 2 Canberra, FFG-35 now FFG 3 Sydney and FFG-44 now FFG 4 Darwin) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1983, the Australian Government decided to build 2 more ships of this class at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard – now owned and operated by Tenix Defence Pty Ltd. HMAS Melbourne [FFG 05], was delivered in 1992. HMAS Newcastle [FFG 6] was delivered in 1993.

    The Supportability of the Adelaide Class had been the subject of discussion since 1987, culminating in the initiation of the FFG Upgrade Project in FY 93/94. Between 1993 and 1996, a Surface Combatant Force Study conducted within Defence analysed the capabilities of their 14-ship surface combatant force, and concluded that the FFG 7 class required an increase in capability.

    These 2 decisions – to build 2 more 4,000t Adelaide Class frigates, and to begin a capability improvement program instead of buying second-hand 9,700t Kidd Class destroyers that the US was making available on the open market – largely set the stage for what was to follow.

    The Adelaide Class upgrade program has a number of elements, but the 3 most important are a new combat and fire control system with an upgraded long-range air search radar, improved air defense missiles, and an upgraded sonar suite that includes both a new hull-mounted sonar and integration of towed sonars into a common data picture. The goal was to create ships that would retain some air defense utility in conjunction with other ships, while enhancing their anti-submarine capabilities to deal with the growing number of quiet diesel-electric submarines being purchased by nations near Australia ’s sea lanes.



    SM-1 on HMAS Darwin
    (click to view full)

    Specifically, the ships are receiving a modified and re-hosted FFG Naval Combat Data System (NCDS) and Australian Distributed Architecture Combat System (ADACS) operating through new interfaces and an upgraded Local Area Network (LAN). The Gun and Missile Fire Control System will be upgraded from Mk92 Mod 2 to Mod 12 variant, and the AN/SPS-49(V)4 air surveillance radar upgraded to AN/SPS-49A(V)1MPU. A multi-sensor Radar Integrated Automatic Detect and Track System (RIADT) is included to improve target detection, tracking and engagement, particularly against low altitude targets in a clutter environment.

    The old AN/SLQ-32(V)2 “Slick 32” electronic support system is being replaced, and the Combat System will be supported by the introduction of the LINK 16 tactical data link to complement LINK 11, and provide better allied and helicopter interoperability. For underwater warfare, the AN/SQS-56 and MULLOKA sonar systems will be removed, in favor of an improved variant of the ANZAC Class’ Thompson (Thales) Spherion Medium Frequency Sonar and systems that can integrate the Spherion’s data with towed sonars to provide a single picture.

    All this must work together well, in order to make the Improved Adelaide Class’ weapons upgrades effective. The ships’ existing Mk13 GMLS pop-up launcher will retain its 40 round magazine, but will be fitted for SM-2 anti-air and Harpoon strike missiles (usually fitted 32 SM-2 and 8 Harpoon). An 8-cell Mk41 tactical-length (vs. longer strike length) vertical launching system adds room for 8 SM-2 Standard or up to 32 shorter-range RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow air defense missiles.

    Self-contained drop-in weapon changes round out the mix. The ship’s 20mm Phalanx CIWS last-ditch defense systems will be upgraded to Block 1B for better capabilities against UAVs, helicopters, and small boats, the MU90 Eurotorp lightweight torpedo will be ready in the torpedo tubes, the Harpoon anti-ship missiles will be RGM-84 Block IIs with GPS guidance and land attack capability, and RAFAEL’s Mini-Typhoon 12.7mm remote weapons systems will supplement the Phalanx’s defenses against fast boats and similar threats.

    The project has had several phases:

    * Phase 1 – Project Definition Studies (1995-1998) – completed
    * Phase 2 – FFG Upgrade Implementation (1999-2008)
    * Phase 3 – A Study into the replacement of the SM-1 missile.
    * Phase 4A – Upgrade of the existing test set to enable testing of the SM-1 replacement missile.
    * Phase 4B – Replacement of the SM-1 Missile capability.

    The RFP for “SEA 1390” was released in 1994, and Transfield Defence Systems of Melbourne (TDS, now Tenix Defence Pty Ltd), and ADI Limited of Sydney (now Thales Australia ) were selected to conduct the Phase 1 Project Definition Studies. The Australian Government subsequently endorsed a list of capability improvements and supportability measures for the Adelaide Class.

    ADI won the tender for Phase 2 on Nov 13/98, and signed an A$900 million contract on June 1/99. Options to enhance the ships’ electronic warfare capabilities, improve training facilities, et. al. would push this to A$ 962 million in February 1998 dollars. Comnpanies involved included:

    * ADI Systems (now Thales Australia ) – Integration Authority and Combat System Design.
    * Thales Underwater Systems (formerly Thompson Marconi Sonar) – Underwater Warfare Design Agent.
    * Gibbs and Cox – Platform System Design Authority. The ship’s upgrades will push its weight to 4,200t, and American upgrades to 4,100t have pushed a hull designed for 3,600t into stability issues.
    * AAI – On Board Training System (OBTS)
    * Lockheed Martin Naval Electronic and Surveillance Systems (LM NE&SS) – Mk 92 Mod 12 Fire Control System.
    * RAFAEL – Electronic Support Measures. Tenix would become a RAFAEL subcontractor.
    * CEA – Data Fusion system.



    FFG 3, modified
    (click to view full)

    Other major subcontractors include Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Launching Systems, who would handle the 8-cell Mk41 vertical launching system placed in front of the Mk13 pop-up launcher and magazine in the bow, and the ESSM and SM-2 missiles the ships will carry. Replacement of the diesel generators and air compressors will improve the ships’ supportability, and involve their own equipment contractors.

    On July 12/04 the Government agreed Second Pass approval to upgrade 4 of its 6 Adelaide Class frigates to fire SM-2 Surface to Air Missiles. SEA 1390 Pase 4B originally intended to achieve this capability upgrade within a Government approved budget of A$ 582m in 2004 dollars. On July 15/04, ADI won the contract for A$ 402.5 million, covering 4 ships: HMAS Darwin, Melbourne , New Castle and Sydney , with completion scheduled for early 2009. These 4 ships would then serve until 2020 or so, while HMAS Adelaide and Canberra would be decommissioned.

    SEA 1390: The Issues



    HMAS Darwin
    (click to view full)

    Reports place the total cost of the upgrade to date at A$ 1.46 billion (about $1.01 billion at June 2004 conversion), or A$ 360 million per ship, with 98% of those funds already paid out to Thales Australia . The project is also reportedly 4 years behind, and in 2007, Australian Navy chief Vice-Admiral Russ Shalders refused to accept HMAS Sydney for operational release, on the grounds that its fighting systems did not function properly.

    Now, an unnamed “government whistleblower” claims that even this understates the problems.

    Towed and on-board sonar sensors could not be integrated, he claimed, significantly hampering submarine detection. Long range chaff could not be used, datalinks to the onboard S-70 Seahawk helicopters were not functioning, and though the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles had been fired from the ships, their electronic support measures that find enemy radars are not working properly, and the radars were alleged to be inadequate. The Australian Defence Materiel Organization, for its part, has taken the official position that the problems are fixable, and says that SEA 1390 can still deliver FFG-7 ships that have been improved enough to face modern threats.

    Incoming defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon does not appear to believe this, and he has been especially vociferous in his criticism. In response, the allegations are flying in Parliament as well as the media. Obviously, ships in this state cannot be sent to even low-medium threat conflict zones, and there are allegations that sailors are quitting in disproportionate numbers due to their inability to deploy. There are even claims that the project was partly driven by a desire to maximize government-owned ADI’s sale price when it was sold to France ’s Thales.



    Bridge to nowhere?
    (click to view full)

    This is interesting in a way, as raising this issue also raises questions about the 1990s construction program as a “jobs buying” measure, in lieu of purchasing more capable ships second-hand.

    Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James went right to that point when asked by the media, saying that while the [Liberal Party] Howard government was responsible for the upgrade contract, it was the [Labor Party] Whitlam government that chose the wrong frigates to begin with [DID: as opposed to the Kidd Class destroyers, which were also available]:

    “There’s no one government that can be blamed for this, the whole problem has both parties’ fingerprints on it.”

    Ultimately, however, the issue is ships.



    HMAS Armidale
    (click to view full)

    If the Improved Adelaide Class can have its upgrades completed within a reasonable time and budget, the Royal Australian Navy will end up with 4 ships that plus up its anti-submarine warfare numbers until 2020, and can perform the full range of naval duties in low to medium threat environments.

    If the upgrades fail, or become prohibitively expensive, the result will be a set of ships that still cannot deploy in threat zones, and the waste of A$ 1.5+ billion. Under that scenario, Australia ’s effective surface combatant fleet will shrink to just 6 ANZAC frigates, to be supplemented 7 or more years later by 3 (or possibly 4) Hobart Class air warfare frigates. This set would be supported by the new 56m Armidale Class Offshore Patrol Vessels, which are suitable for Coast Guard type duties throughout the South Pacific and very little else. The extra coverage slots would have to be filled somehow, perhaps by lesser capability ships like an extended OPV, a corvette like Navantia’s BAM, or a more capable corvette or frigate design. Even lesser options will require additional funds, however – otherwise, the demise of the SEA 1390 program would simply leave a hole.

    If the result is a hole, or a significantly reduced capability, then the decision to extend and then to upgrade Australia ’s FFG-7 will have harmed Australia ’s overall naval capability via a very expensive program. One that came, twice, disguised as a bargain.

    Updates and Developments



    FFG 6 fires SM-1
    (click to view full)

    Nov 20/08: Australia’s Minister for Defence announces that the DMO has agreed to Contractual Acceptance of HMAS Sydney and HMAS Darwin from from the prime contractor Thales Australia . He adds that contractual acceptance of HMAS Melbourne is expected by the end of 2008, and provisional acceptance of HMAS Newcastle is now expected by June 2009.

    This acceptance milestone also includes the new FFG Warfare Systems Support Centre at Garden Island . Integrated combat system performance has been one of the project’s biggest difficulties, with claims that key weapons systems were not fully integrated. The ministerial release adds that upgraded software for the Australian Distributed Architecture Combat System has now been delivered – but it did not say whether this had resolved past issues, in part or in full.

    Defence minister Fitzgibbon recognized the Hon. Greg Combet MP, Australia ’s Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, for his role in resolving outstanding issues with the project:

    “Greg invested a lot of time and effort in getting the parties to the contract – Defence, Thales Australia and Raphael – to sit down and talk about the issues impeding the project. This has resulted in much greater collaboration between the parties than has previously been experienced during the project’s history [as well as improved progress].”

    Nov 19/08: Thales Australia announces that it has completed the Detailed Design Review for both Mission and Support Systems for project SEA 1442 Phase 3: Maritime Communications Modernisation.

    SEA 1442 involves the introduction of an Internet Protocol (IP) based Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network (MTWAN) into the Royal Australian Navy, interfacing with the RAN’s existing analogue system. The MTWAN is scheduled to be installed on all 8 ANZAC frigates, its 4 upgraded Adelaide Class guided missile frigates, as well as the amphibious ships HMAS Manoora, HMAS Kanimbla, and HMAS Success. The first installation at the Fleet Network Centre is scheduled for December 2008.

    Jan 19/08: HMAS Adelaide [FFG-01] is decommissioned after 27 years of service. Following her decommissioning, Adelaide will be gifted to the NSW Government, to be sunk off Terrigal on the New South Wales central coast, as an artificial reef and dive attraction. DoD release.

    Additional Readings & Sources

    * Australia DoD, Defence Materiel Organization – SEA 1390 – FFG Upgrade Project (FFG UP)

    * Royal Australian Navy – Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigate

    * GlobalSecurity – FFG-7 OLIVER HAZARD PERRY-class

    * Tenix – SEA 1390 Ph 2 FFG Upgrade. They stepped back in as a subcontractor to Israel ’s RAFAEL, who is integrating the electronic support systems that detect enemy radars.

    * GlobalSecurity – DDG-993 Kidd Class. They are now referred to as the DDG 1801 Chi Teh Class.

    * The Australian (Jan 7/08) – Navy cost sinking budget

    * The Australian (Jan 3/08) – Parties exchange blame over frigates

    * The Age (Jan 2/08) – Adelaide frigates a nightmare: govt

    * The Courier-Mail (Jan 1/08) – Navy Ships Unfit For War

    * Lockheed Martin (Sept 25/07) – Lockheed Martin Awarded $20.6 Million For Fire Control System Upgrade To Support Enhanced Missile Australian Navy Frigate. this would give them SM-2 missile capability.

    * Australian DoD (Annual Report 2004/05) – Approved Major Capital Equipment Projects: SEA 1390 Ph 2 FFG Upgrade Implementation. It isn’t going well.

    * Sea Power magazine (September 2004) – Australia to Upgrade Adelaide-Class Ships, Eyes UAV Fleet

    * Asia Pulse (October 2002) – Taiwan’s Kidd-Class Warships Deal To Cost US$785 Mln. For 4 of the fully multi-role, 9,700t ships, or about 20-25% of their original cost. The Kidds would also have required upgrades, but have more native capability and the space to accommodate upgrades more easily.

    * Australian Navy, Navy News (June 14/99) – $900m FFG Upgrade

    * Australian government (#65, Dec 1/98) – Australian Centre for Maritime Studies, Australian Maritime Digest. See “RAN Frigate Upgrade

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    Senior Contributor chakos's Avatar
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    Where do i begin. Ive seen over the last decade or so the Liberal party say it is spending more than ever on modernising our defence force (not putting all the blame soley on the Libs, Labor left our defence forces a complete mess). The problem is that spending money does not necessarily equate to capability and we are finding ourselves pissing money up against the wall for little or no real benefit. Sometimes we need to look past the spin and ask these five very simple questions.
    1)How many assets do we have?
    2)How many assets do we need?
    3) Are the acquisition programs in place to make sure the assets we need are being purchased?
    4) Are we getting a good deal on the assets we are purchasing with ?
    5)What is the level of risk involved in said project and is it worth it?

    The OHP update is a case in point of what not to do. The idea sounds fantastic, get your old frigates, update them with modern tech and arms and save yourself the money on buying new ones for an extended period of time.

    Minor updates do work, they can add quite a benefit for a limited cost. Updating every weapon system and most of the electronics on a 25+ year old warship though is pushing it, especially when the Americans themselves found it too expensive (for cost/benefit) and they are spreading their costs over a much larger amount of ships, ergo bringing the costs per ship down.

    We should have simply bought 6-8 more Anzac frigates, factory fresh, equipped as required and been done with it. A dozen Anzacs and four AWD's would do our navy very nicelly yet we see a large defence budget consistently go down the drain on these projects of fancy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chakos View Post
    The OHP update is a case in point of what not to do. The idea sounds fantastic, get your old frigates, update them with modern tech and arms and save yourself the money on buying new ones for an extended period of time.

    Minor updates do work, they can add quite a benefit for a limited cost. Updating every weapon system and most of the electronics on a 25+ year old warship though is pushing it, especially when the Americans themselves found it too expensive (for cost/benefit) and they are spreading their costs over a much larger amount of ships, ergo bringing the costs per ship down.
    Except these updated frigates are now regarded as some of the best of their type in the world. again, it's an issue that we didn't have governments who were prepared to listen to the service chiefs and elected to postpone and delay critical updates. In the end we had no option but to do a MLU because we couldn't have done a block replacement anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by chakos View Post
    We should have simply bought 6-8 more Anzac frigates, factory fresh, equipped as required and been done with it. A dozen Anzacs and four AWD's would do our navy very nicelly yet we see a large defence budget consistently go down the drain on these projects of fancy.
    ?? The ANZACs were POS until recently - due to a govt that decided to "fit for but not buy" capability. They've only just turned around due to the prev govt turning on the funds and actually letting them be kitted out as they should have been.

    apart from that, wtf would we want more ANZACs at this point in time? there is other capabilty that we need - and having a 14 vessel type as a principle combatant is the last thing we need - esp when the ANZACs were NTFU for the first half of their lives.

    and yes, I've worked in procurement.

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    Senior Contributor chakos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gf0012-aust View Post
    Except these updated frigates are now regarded as some of the best of their type in the world. again, it's an issue that we didn't have governments who were prepared to listen to the service chiefs and elected to postpone and delay critical updates. In the end we had no option but to do a MLU because we couldn't have done a block replacement anyway.
    Look im the first to agree that if the OHP update works as advertised they would be some kickass frigates. The problem it seems though is that they are going to turn into another Seasprite



    ?? The ANZACs were POS until recently - due to a govt that decided to "fit for but not buy" capability. They've only just turned around due to the prev govt turning on the funds and actually letting them be kitted out as they should have been.

    apart from that, wtf would we want more ANZACs at this point in time? there is other capabilty that we need - and having a 14 vessel type as a principle combatant is the last thing we need - esp when the ANZACs were NTFU for the first half of their lives.

    and yes, I've worked in procurement.
    Im not saying we should buy more base level ANZACS, i was more thinking about buying more that are properly armed and updated. ANZAC circa. 2008 not ANZAC circa. 1994. Im would agree with you strongly that the original ANZACS where basically an oversized offshore patrol vessel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chakos View Post
    The problem it seems though is that they are going to turn into another Seasprite
    I'm not as negative wrt this. They're not another Seasprite - and with respect - the issues involved are completely different.

    eg Seasprite was due to a user requirement that wanted a highly automated and sophisticated combat suite handled by less air crew - normal Seasprites are fine - it was the complexity of the task, scope creep and the usual procurement demons of knowing when to cut it adrift due to too much time and investment. The view is always to try and recover a project - there is guilt on all sides here.

    The frigate upgrades are different altogether. its a legacy of a forced upgrade due to a series of government decisions that abandoned early upgrades, and where the decisions re the ANZACs contributed.

    They are the best OHP's in the world - and thats not a chest beating exercise, there is a view that they are probably some of the best Frigates in the world now that the mods have been effected.

    the problem as always is Govt - make the committments at the right time and we don't/won't suffer from staccato projects where the user community, the project management community etc are held to ransom by the Govts political agenda and by (sometimes) vendors who are @#$%ing useless at their trade.

    It's not simple issue.

    The project closest to emulating Seasprite is Wedgetail

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    Senior Contributor chakos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gf0012-aust View Post
    The project closest to emulating Seasprite is Wedgetail

    See i was aware that the Wedgetail was having problems but from what i heard it was nowhere near the scale of the Seasprite problem. I thought that it was just a bit of a delay, nothing too terrible.

    I dont doubt your right, you obviously have more insight on the matter than i do its just that the problems with Wedgetail arnet as publicised

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