Advances in the capabilities of surface-to-air missiles are being matched by developments in maritime air defence sensors. There is therefore demand for increasingly sophisticated, dedicated air defence vessels. This article analyses a number of the most significant recent developments in this field.
Australia is one of several countries surveyed in this article which is pouring investment into its air defence surface combatants. Currently in build for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is a trio of 6250-tonne, 147-metre/m (482-feet/ft) warships, designated by the RAN as Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD). These vessels will replace the RAN's ageing Adelaide' class frigates and are urgently required to provide area air defence for RAN task groups, particularly as the fleet's highest value surface units, the two new 'Canberra' class amphibious assault ships, are very lightly armed. The AWDs will also have significant Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) capabilities. These are technologically advanced, and potentially, highly capable,
Although its prime role will be I anti-submarine warfare The 'Type 26' class' new Sea Ceptor SAM system, and its accompanying Type-997 3D radar, will add significantly to the Royal Navy's air defence capabilities. warships, although they are experiencing a complex, trouble-plagued gestation.
Following the green light for the programme in 2007 which uses a design based on an adaptation of the Armada Espanola (Royal Spanish Navy) 'F-ioo'class frigates which are built by Navantia, Canberra opted for a modular approach to construction. Construction is being performed by the AWD Alliance, comprising the Australian government's Defence Materiel Organisation, ASC shipbuilders and Raytheon's Australia subsidiary. After numerous changes of plan, a total of 31 modules per ship are being constructed by ASC, BAE Systems and Forgacs in Australia, and Navantia in Spain and the UK, while mast structures are being built by MG Engineering of Australia. Design, engineering and contractual problems have combined to delay the programme by some three years. The project nevertheless reached a major landmark in early May 2016 with the activation of a number of combat systems on the first-of-class, HMAS Hobart, which had been launched about a year previously.
The armament fit of the AWD is comprehensive. Its main weapon system is the Lockheed Martin Mk.4148-cell vertical missile launcher, able to fire Raytheon RIM-161 Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block-IIIB and Raytheon RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs). The vessel's Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) capability is provided by two quadruple canister launchers for Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon family AShMs. The vessel's gun armament takes the form of a BAE Systems'i27mm weapon backed up by two Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Typhoon 25mm automatic cannons. The 'Hobart' classes' ASW fit consists of Eurotorp...