HMAS Parramatta, the fifth Anzac class frigate built for Australia and the sixth to enter the Anti-Ship Missile Defence Upgrade programme has commenced preparations to undock in mid-April.
While the most obvious and striking changes are the addition of a ‘cupola' mast to house the CEA Phased Array Radar, and a coat of the new Royal Australian Navy 'haze grey' paint, these are just two of a complex web of engineering changes and maintenance tasks delivered by BAE Systems, Saab Australia and Naval Ship Management, at the BAE Systems shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia over the past 12 months.
While significant elements of the combat system were replaced or upgraded, and large sections of the propulsion and electrical generation system were removed for overhaul prior to replacement, a significant body of work was also undertaken with assistance from uniform staff to maintain and overhaul equipment that remained.
Anzac Systems Program Office Commonwealth representative Mr Justin Bentink has been involved with the upgrade since it started and said that he has been impressed with the results that the diverse team of uniform and contract staff have produced.
“As a civilian I am honoured to work with such an inspiring group of naval professionals, supporting the Navy to achieve its capability aims," Mr Bentink said.
“Witnessing the dedication of naval personnel on a daily basis has personally altered my life's perspective on discipline, dedication and self-sacrifice.
“To me HMAS Parramatta is truly the embodiment of what can be achieved if Navy and industry come together altruistically for the good of the nation."
Following a period operating from Fleet Base East, Parramatta arrived at Fleet Base West in February 2015 and undertook a comprehensive safety and preparation phase before docking in late April. During this time, the vessel was completely emptied of all stores and supplies, de-fuelled, and cleaned in an extensive operation undertaken by the crew and contractors. Removal of some major radar and other antennae and upper deck fixtures also commenced, allowing more efficient use of time on the dock to achieve the major upgrade work.
Once docked, material control of the vessel was handed to Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, Anzac System Program Office, and the crew moved to sister ship HMAS Warramunga for return to Navy service following completion of the upgrade.
'Rip out' began in the operations room to make way for the upgraded Combat System, the Guided Missile Vertical Launch system was removed to allow access for engine removal (which then allows them to be overhauled offsite and replaced in the vessel prior to undocking), and disconnection of systems and removal of upper deck mast structures began, with the ‘classic’ Anzac class masts being lifted off in May 2015. The new masts, built on the base of the original masts with new upper structures, cables, services, and paint scheme, were lifted into place on in November; the highest mast being a full seven decks above the main upper deck.
By October 2015, the entire outer hull had been blasted back and coated in a red preservation undercoat, making Parramatta nearly unrecognisable from her former glory of only months before. Application of the more traditional grey top coat commenced in September, and the ship will be fully painted and ready to be returned to the water by mid-April 2016.
In total, Parramatta will have received the services of over 600,000 hours of individual labour from an array of Australian industry and uniform personnel, resulting in a significant capability increase in addition to the impressive new visual profile.