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Upgrades toughen 'floating targets'

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Upgrades toughen 'floating targets'

Gregor Ferguson

The Australian

May 21, 2005


THE Navy's Anzac class frigates, famously dismissed as "floating targets" by former defence science and personnel minister Bronwyn Bishop, are being toughened up.


Under a swag of overlapping upgrade projects worth over $600 million, the eight Anzacs are being re-armed with Harpoon anti-ship missiles, new Evolved Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles, and new anti-submarine torpedoes and sonars.


Defence has pioneered a new business model for these upgrades. It has created an Anzac Alliance with the ships' builders, Tenix Defence, and the designer of their combat system, Saab Systems. The Alliance is proving an efficient way of designing and managing the upgrades and controlling their costs.


But one of the most important elements of this program, the $500 million so-called Anti-Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) upgrade, has been waiting for two years for final government go-ahead. The first stage of the ASMD, worth some $260 million, was finally announced last week as part of the new defence budget.


This stage will link the other upgrades into a coherent whole. The Navy wants an infra-red search and tracking system (IRST) to help detect sea-skimming missiles, and an upgraded combat system to process the enhanced sensor and fire control data more quickly.










The Navy is also considering installing a second Saab-built fire control radar so the ship can engage two targets simultaneously, and two short-range heat-seeking missile launchers aboard each ship as a last-ditch defence against supersonic anti-ship missiles.


The delay in getting the ASMD upgrade started is partly due to recent sea trials of an innovative Australian-designed alternative to the second Saab radar.


Canberra-based CEA Technologies has developed a family of modular solid state radars whose beams are steered electronically rather than by the traditional rotating antenna. The Lockheed Martin SPY-1 radar which forms part of the Aegis air warfare system uses the same "phased array" principle.


The US Government has already ordered two of the company's CEA-FAR radars for an undisclosed "black" surveillance application, while German shipbuilder Blohm + Voss has also specified the CEA-FAR as the baseline fire control radar for its innovative new Meko-D family of frigates.


Early this year, Navy put CEA-FAR aboard the Anzac-class frigate HMAS Arunta to test its performance against everything from low-flying Hornet fighters to simulated sea-skimming missiles.


The sea trials are presumably confirmed predictions of CEA-FAR's performance, but the technology is still very new and Defence is still studying the risks associated with it. An announcement is expected by mid-year on whether that second Anzac frigate fire control radar will consist of CEA-FAR and its smaller brother CEA-MOUNT.


The two radars will work as a team: CEA-FAR will track incoming aircraft and missiles while CEA-MOUNT will "illuminate" them at a different radar frequency to guide the ship's Sea Sparrow missiles to their targets. Their electronically steered beams will enable the ship to engage several targets simultaneously, rather than just one, increasing their survivability and combat effectiveness.


CEA Technologies' radar antennas resemble 60cm tiles which can be assembled into large panels. They will be arranged hexagonally atop the bridge of the frigates to provide 360-degree coverage.

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