Some 16 to 21 years after commissioning, the RAN’s eight Anzac-class frigates are to be equipped with towed array sonar systems.
The first of the class, HMAS Anzac, was commissioned in 1996 and the latest, HMAS Perth, was commissioned in 2006. All eight ships were fitted for towed arrays but never received them, despite their role as the RAN’s main anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform.
In a 21 March notification on the AusTender website, Defence said a Request for Information (RFI) would be released “within the month” in relation to Project Sea 1408, a consolidation of Sea 1408 Phase 3 Torpedo Self Defence and Project Sea 5014 Phase 2 Anzac Towed Array Sonar.
“The project seeks to identify and delivery new generation anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and torpedo self-defence (TSD) capability to the Royal Australian Navy surface fleet,” the notification stated.
“The introduction of the ASW improvements is to help maximise an individual ship’s ability to detect and defeat submarine and torpedo threats and improve platform survivability. Integration of these capabilities elements with the platform’s Combat Management System will be pursued to provide a networked system for maritime task groups,” the notification added.
The first of four capability elements would deliver what was described as a Depressed Towed Array Sonar to the Anzac-class to improve the submarine detection capability of the platform “as well as to enable development of ASW training, tactics and doctrine ahead of the introduction of the Hunter-class frigate.”
The three other capability elements would be delivered both to the Anzac-class and to the RAN’s three Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers, and would inform future integration of AWD/TSD systems and operations into the wider surface fleet.
These comprised torpedo detection-classification-localisation – to identify, classify and track torpedo threats; soft-kill torpedo countermeasures – to confuse, distract and seduce a torpedo away from an intended target; and hard kill – to destroy or disable a torpedo threat, for example an anti-torpedo torpedo.
The notification said the RFI would focus on obtaining key strategic information, solutions and industry’s approach to achieving the technical requirements, but gave no scheduling details.
ADM Comment: The decision to upgrade the Anzacs’ ASW capability at this time is likely to have flowed from the decision to extend their service life as the Hunter-class future frigates are rolled out, with the last of the Anzacs now set to remain in commission until 2042-43.