Australian Warship Joins Chilean Navy

By Andy Schroder

The Australian warship FFG 06 – built in Australia and, for more than 25 years, crewed by Australians – has joined the Chilean Navy.

1

HMAS Newcastle departs for the last time before decommissioning. Image Credit: Photographer Sgt David Gibbs, Defence Imagery

After steaming 813,904.36 nautical miles (1,507,350.8 km) and spending 69,820 hours and 45 minutes underway, HMAS Newcastle decommissioned from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) on 30 June 2019. The ship remained alongside Fleet Base East, Garden Island, Sydney, until being renamed and commissioned into the Chilean Navy on 15 April 2020 as the Capitan Prat.

HMAS Newcastle, the sixth and final of Australia’s Adelaide class guided missile frigates (FFGs), was constructed at Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Victoria and commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 11 December 1993.

newcastle2

Royal Australian Navy sailors, Leading Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Brad Elliott (left) and Able Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Brad Lewis, launch HMAS Newcastle's embarked Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial System from the ship's flight deck during Exercise Kakadu 2018. Image Credit: Photographer LSIS James McDougall, Defence Imagery

Based on the United States Navy Oliver Hazard Perry design, the long range escort vessel is capable of anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare while also able to provide a suite of surveillance, reconnaissance and interdiction capability.  Along with modernised repair and replacement protocols this class was the first in the RAN to be powered by gas turbine engines – able to be underway from cold in less than 30 minutes – could adopt minimum crewing, and achieved a class-wide increase in operational availability.

During her commission HMAS Newcastle deployed internationally on warlike and peacekeeping operations in East Timor, Solomon Islands, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East.

newcastle3

Able Seaman Boatswain's Mate Wade Haffner fires a 12.7mm machine gun from the gun direction platform during a small arms firing in the Middle East region. Image Credit: Photographer ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez, Defence Imagery                                         

During the mid-1990s a Surface Combatant Force Study revealed the need to modernise the Adelaide Class and four of the six FFGs were identified for upgrade. The FFG Upgrade Program broadly consisted of a new combat and fire control system (ADACS) which included a long-range air search radar, improved air defence missiles (Vertical Launch System) and an upgraded sonar suite. HMAS Newcastle completed the FFG Upgrade Program in 2009 which enabled her to deliver on the RAN’s mission to fight and win at sea for another decade.

newcastle4

Maritime Warfare Officer, Lieutenant Iris Van Kampen keeps watch on the bridge of HMAS Newcastle. Image Credit: Photographer ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez, Defence Imagery             

HMAS Newcastle’s last port visit prior to decommissioning was to her namesake city in the Hunter Valley. The ship’s company conducted a Freedom of Entry parade, hosted tours for local schools, naval cadets and the RSL and also visited her adopted charity, the Hunter Orthopaedic School. In recognition of the close bond between ship and city Fort Scratchley, ‘guarding’ the entrance to the Hunter River, provided a gunfire salute on her departure.

newcastle5

Members of ship's company stand at attention during HMAS Newcastle's decommissioning ceremony held at Fleet Base East, Sydney. Image Credit: Photographer ABET Jarrod Mulvihill, Defence Imagery

Written by Commander Andy Schroder, Australian War Memorial Navy Fellow

 

 

Watch

After more than 25 years of service in the Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Newcastle was decommissioned one year ago on 30 June, 2019. In 2017, the ship was deployed to the Middle East region as part of Operation Manitou. The crew shared some of their stories and experiences for the Australian War Memorial collection.