Upgraded Phalanx 20mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS) are to be progressively rolled out across major RAN fleet units, including the two Canberra-class Land Helicopter Docks (LHDs), Defence Minister Linda Reynolds announced on 22 June.
The first system upgraded to the Block 1B Baseline 2 configuration had already reached initial operating capability (IOC) aboard the air warfare destroyer HMAS Sydney, which was commissioned in May, the Minister said in a statement last week.
The upgraded capability would now be progressively installed through to 2023 aboard the RAN’s two other Hobart-class AWDs, the two LHDs, and the two Supply-class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) vessels, the first of which will enter service later this year and the second in 2022, she added.
A Defence spokesperson told ADM that nine RAN Phalanx mounts being upgraded in the US from the Block 1A configuration, and three Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 1 mounts procured for the AWDs and subsequently upgraded to the new configuration, had been supplemented with two additional mounts acquired for the two AORs, NuSHIPs Supply and Stalwart.
These would be integrated into the ships in Australia following their delivery from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia.
One Phalanx system would also be installed on the 16,000 tonne Landing Ship Dock HMAS Choules, another would be deployed to the Naval Training Systems Centre in Sydney, and a third would be used as a rotatable pool spare.
The number and location of Phalanx mounts to be installed on each 27,500-tonne LHD had yet to be decided and would be a component of the LHD Capability Assurance Program, the spokesperson added.
The Block 1B Baseline 1 standard introduced a high-definition electro-optical (EO) channel to complement the Ku-band search and track radars, together with a separate video tracker to support surface mode tracking and fire control generation
The Block 2 Baseline 2 configuration introduced a digital hardware upgrade for the search and tracking radars that improves the short-range air radar picture.
Three Phalanx systems per ship are understood to have been approved for each LHD, with the eventual number depending on final design and radar cross-section analysis.
It’s not clear whether these will eventually result in the removal of any or all of the four Rafael Typhoon 25mm remote weapon systems currently installed at each corner of the flight deck.
While effective against asymmetric attack, the Typhoons are unlikely to be capable of dealing with any anti-ship guided missile attacks that penetrate the defensive screen thrown up by the LHDs’ escorts.