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Navy ships unfit for war

Article from: The Courier-Mail

Ian McPhedran

January 01, 2008 11:00pm

AFTER a $1.4 billion "upgrade" the navy's front-line fighting ships cannot defend themselves and are unable to be sent into battle.

A navy whistleblower says sending the 4000-tonne Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates to war would be like sending a VK Commodore to race at Bathurst.

Senior officials admit the 1997 FFG upgrade project was a "debacle" created by the Howard government's decision to maximise the sale price of the Sydney-based contractor Australian Defence Industries when it was sold to the French firm Thales.

The project is four years late, includes four ships not the original six and they just don't work.

The navy informant told News Limited, which publishes The Courier-Mail, that the situation was so bad sailors were quitting because their ships could not be sent to the Middle East or any other conflict zone.

Late last year, navy chief Vice-Admiral Russ Shalders refused to accept the first ship in the program, HMAS Sydney, for "operational release" because its war fighting systems did not function properly.

The whistleblower said the 1970s-era ships' anti-missile and anti-torpedo systems could not be integrated and their electronic support measures (the ships' eyes and ears for detecting incoming airborne threats) were simply a joke. "That means they would be going into a war zone virtually blind," he said.

The sailor said the navy could have bought virtually new and more capable US Navy Kidd Class Destroyers in the late 1990s for a bargain price.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the upgrade was "another nightmare" Labor had inherited and would have to manage as best as it could.

The total cost of the upgrade is $1.46 billion or $360 million a ship.

Government auditors say up to 98 per cent of the money has already been paid to Thales.

Commodore Drew McKinnie said that despite all the problems he was confident the project would deliver "significant improvements" to the ships.

"We are already seeing world-leading capability with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile integrated into the FFGs and overseas navies are interested in these developments," he said.

The head of Major Surface Ship Projects with the Defence Materiel Organisation, Commodore McKinnie said he was seeing "much improved performance" from the radar sensors.


Have Your Say

Latest Comments:

Those of you throwing mud at the other side of politics regardless of which one would do well to remember the old adage: No matter who you vote for you always elect a politician" Enough said!

Posted by: Fender of Brisbane 3:57pm January 03, 2008

How many more "little Jems" are on the horizion? To answer Othello Cat, the US who made the ships, made them as throwaway ships, never to be up graded. The Defence Association said at the time, it was a very bad idea, and now look at it. $1.4billion is nothing to be sneazed at. How many doctors would that have given?

Posted by: David Byster of Acacia Ridge 2:01pm January 03, 2008

Thank God we've got an Army - yeah, an Army with packs that break and boots that fall apart. The Defence way of doing things is to ask the people at the coalface what they want, trial something different and then buy something completely different and unsuitable for the job again. As Defence members you have to just put up with it.

Posted by: Adam of Brisbane 1:08pm January 03, 2008

Lex of Brisbane 11:01am, I agree with you, those in this forum so quick to bag our previous government overlook the mistakes of previous Labor governments of similar magnitude!

Governments are made up of humans who aren't any less fallible than the rest of us and make bad decisions because of bad advice, ego, too little research or a dozen other reasons, governments have made expensive mistakes for as long as we've had governments, so stop the petty political games and put our new government under the same scrutiny that so many reserved for the previous government because they also have a larger than desirable majority but thankfully won't control the Senate which was probably the last governments major downfall!

Posted by: Aiden of Brisbane 12:44pm January 03, 2008

My my, look at all the Libs rushing to CM to try to convice us that the CM is biased, that John Howard was God, That Jim Beasley caused it all, The Libs authorised the faulty ships, the faulty helicopters and the faulty wars. Howard and Co are now on trial for their misadministration, for all the world to see. And does it show up!

Posted by: Ronaldo of Clontarf Beach 11:16am January 03, 2008

Why don't incoming governments just get on with the job they were elected to do instead of playing petty politics! They won the election and should be getting on with governing instead of making largely politically motivated judgements about their perception of the shortcomings of the previous government.

If the previous government members were involved in fraud or other criminal activity their exposure is justified, otherwise they're just preaching to a polarised electorate so stop wasting our time and money and get on with governing the country. Incumbents should remember that one day they'll be voted out too!

Posted by: Lex of Brisbane 11:01am January 03, 2008

What did you really expect from a Liberal party that now has a leader that says he has never voted for the Liberal party. This is just the tip of the iceberg that sank the Liberals, it wasn't just Howards incompetence it took a whole ship of fools and the biggest fools are still in charge, remember this idiot Nelson has promoted Bronwyn Bishop, I still haven't stopped laughing?

Posted by: Hell Fire Rod of Tweed 10:13am January 03, 2008
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