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SEA 1390 Ph 2.1 - FFG Upgrade Project (FFG UP)

Current Status
FFG Fleet
Point of Contact

Project Overview

Prime Contractor: Thales Australia (previously ADI Limited)

Project Description: Project SEA 1390 Ph 2.1 (FFG Upgrade) seeks to regain a comparative regional maritime capability by upgrading four (originally six) Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates (FFGs), and ensure that they remain effective and supportable through to their planned end of life in 2013 – 2021. The FFGs are being upgraded with improved Anti-Ship Missile Defence; On Board Training System; Electronic Support system; Tactical Data Link capability; Underwater Warfare System, Ship Service Diesel Generator’s and other ship systems, establish shore based Operator and Team Trainers and a Warfare System Support Centre.

HMAS Darwin

SEA 1390 Phase 1 - A two-year $13.5 million (December 1995 prices) Project Definition Study in 1994 provided Defence with upgrade options and documentation needed to initiate the project’s implementation phase. 

SEA 1390 Phase 2.1 – The FFG Upgrade Project (FFG UP) implementation phase commenced in June 1999 at a cost of $1.266 billion (February 1998 prices). That amount consists of the Prime Contract price of $944 million and $322 million for work conducted outside the Prime Contract.  The Request for Tender of Phase 2.1 was issued in November 1997 and closed in March 1998.  The then Australian Defence Industries (ADI) was selected as preferred tenderer for Phase 2.1 in November 1998.  The FFG Upgrade Prime Contract was signed by ADI Limited in June 1999, and ADI commenced trading as Thales Australia in October 2006. 

Contract Change - Upgrade of Four FFGs

At contract signature in June 1999 delivery of the Lead FFG was scheduled in May 2003 and the 6th and final FFG in December 2005. In November 2003 the Government determined that the FFG fleet would be reduced from six to four ships with the two oldest FFGs (HMA ships ADELAIDE and CANBERRA) to be removed from service, prior to their planned upgrade and life extension. The contract was subsequently successfully amended in June 2006 to deliver four upgraded FFGs, with Final Acceptance of the 4th FFG scheduled in December 2009. This contract change also included the settlement of Prime Contractor delay claims; changes to the Project’s Contract Master Schedule and milestones, and changes to Provisional Acceptance arrangements. 

Royal Australian Navy - FFG Fleet.

Royal Australian Navy - FFG Fleet

FFG Upgrade Combat System Changes.

FFG Upgrade Combat System Changes

The Project delivers four upgraded FFGs by:

Above Water Warfare

The FFGs’ Anti-Surface Warfare capability, based on the Harpoon guided missile system, is being retained and the Anti-Ship Missile Defence capabilities are being upgraded by the addition of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and a Vertical Launching System.  Improving the main search air surveillance radar and undertaking substantial improvements to the Mk 92 missile fire control system and radars; replacing the Electronic Surveillance system; upgrading the Tactical Data Link capability. The FFGs’ radar decoy capability is being upgraded by additional decoy launchers, launch control systems and improved long-range chaff and infrared decoys.

Underwater Warfare

The Underwater Warfare System is enhanced with the inclusion of new torpedo warning, mine avoidance, and a new hull-mounted search sonars. The FFGs’ original Hull-Mounted Sonar is replaced, and their torpedo defence improved by provision of more effective torpedo warning systems and torpedo countermeasures.  A multi-layered approach to torpedo detection will be provided by the Hull-Mounted Sonar’s active and passive modes, by integration of a new towed array system, and by the use of the FFGs’ existing helicopter systems, including sonobuoys and the helicopter data link. The FFGs’ underwater warfare system will also receive new special processing equipment for torpedo detection and torpedo countermeasures will be upgraded by provision of ship-launched, expendable acoustic decoys.  The FFGs’ ability to detect sub-surface and surface floating mines is to be upgraded by a combination of ship-mounted electro-optical sensors, visual means and a dedicated Mine and Obstacle Avoidance Sonar.

On Board Training

The FFGs are to receive an On‑Board Training System integrated with the Combat System and sensors.  This system stimulates the ship’s sensors and simulates the FFG’s weapons and their operational, geographical and climatic environments.  It will allow the Command Team to simulate the FFGs’ warfare capabilities.

Shore Facilities

ADI established a Land Based Test Site at its Garden Island Facility in Sydney. The test site is used to develop and test the command and control software and to integrate the upgrade equipment. The Land Based Test Site will transition into a FFG Warfare System Support Centre. This facility will be used for; software upkeep, maintenance training and in-service support of the combat system equipment. The FFGs’ Combat Team Trainer and Operator Trainer

Life-of-type Extension

The FFGs will receive a Life-of-Type Extension of five years, through improving the reliability of the ship’s platform systems including hull, mechanical and electrical refurbishments and upgraded diesel generators, air conditioning, and electrical power converters.

FFG Displacement

The FFG's weight displacement was increased from 4100 to 4200 tons to accommodate the weapon and platform system improvements. The weight and stability of the upgraded ships were successfully tested on completion of the three FFGs that have completed the production phase.

Upgrade Production Work

The Upgrade production work for the four FFGs is conducted at ADI's Garden Island Facility in Sydney. This commenced with the first ship in the last quarter of 2003 and completion of the last ship, HMAS NEWCASTLE in late 2009.

Subcontractors and Australian Industry Involvement

Thales Australia, as the Prime Contractor and Upgrade Design Authority, subcontracted a number of Australian and overseas firms. These include Gibbs and Cox, THALES Underwater Systems (TUS), AAI, Lockheed Martin Naval Electronic and Surveillance Systems (LM NE&SS) and CEA. ADI is the Combat System Design and Integration Authority, Gibbs and Cox is the Platform System Design Authority, TUS (formerly Thompson Marconi Sonar) is the Underwater Warfare Design Agent, AAI will provide the On Board Training System (OBTS), LM NE&SS will provide the Mk 92 Mod 12 Fire Control System, and CEA provide the Data Fusion system. Other major subcontractors include Raytheon, Rafael and Lockheed Martin Launching Systems. ADI is contracted to achieve an Australian Industry Involvement of 48%.

Technology involved

Covers an extensive range of technology to include a new Combat System architecture, hardware and shipboard production activities, system and software development and integration to include underwater, electronic support and combat system radars and automatic integration and detection all fitted radars.

Installing the Vertical Launching System
The Spherion Sonar Array
Installing the Vertical Launching System
The Spherion Sonar Array

Status of Project

HMA Ships SYDNEY and MELBOURNE were Provisionally Accepted from the Prime Contractor in December 2006 and October 2007 respectively and have since been operated under Navy control towards the achievement of Initial Operational Release. There remain operational performance shortcomings with the Electronic Surveillance and Underwater Warfare Systems. The contractor retains responsibility to correct these deficiencies prior to November 2008.

Notwithstanding the above, the Upgraded FFGs have already demonstrated significant capability improvements over non-upgraded ships. HMAS SYDNEY successfully completed her First-of-Class firing of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) on 20 August 2007 and subsequently completed Operational Test and Evaluation firings on 14 October 2007 at the US Pacific Missile Range facility in Hawaii. These outcomes provide increased confidence in the Australian Distributed Architecture Combat System (ADACS). SPS-49 and Mk92 radar sensor upgrades have also been demonstrated to provide significant improvements to long range detection and engagement capabilities of the Combat System. The Mine Obstacle Avoidance and Hull Mounted Sonars also provide an important capability improvement.

The Prime Contractor ADI Ltd now trading as Thales Australia continues to make good progress and have maintained schedule since the May 2006 re-baseline.

This re-baseline divorced the ship production work from the software development and delivery process. This provided flexibility but certainty for planning specifically for production work and the software rollout and the overall capability delivery. It also reduced the overall technical risk through reduced complexity for test and evaluation and problem solving.

The capability is now being delivered progressively through multiple (three) software baselines.  Software Baseline Build 1 (BB1) provides the base capability of an upgraded FFG with upgrade fire control, early warning radars and underwater warfare systems and improved maintainability and reliability in the newly fitted systems. Baseline build 2 introduces an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) capability and Baseline Build 3 provides a new dedicated Joint Tactical Information Distributed System (Link 16) capability and a Common Data Link Management System (CDLMS) for both Link-11/16. Existing Link-11 capability is retained.

Thales Australia continues to make good progress and has maintained schedule since the May 2006 schedule re-baseline. HMAS Darwin commenced contractor sea trials on 11 Mar 08 and contractual Provisional Acceptance is scheduled for August 2008. HMAS Newcastle, the last FFG, commenced its upgrade in October 2007. HMA Ships Sydney and Melbourne were Provisionally Accepted from the Prime Contractor in December 2006 and October 2007 respectively and have since been operated under Navy control towards the achievement of Initial Operational Release.

The Upgrade project is scheduled to complete in December 2009.


The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) acquired four United States Navy designed FFG 7 class guided missile frigates in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These ships, HMA Ships ADELAIDE, CANBERRA, SYDNEY and DARWIN, were built by Todd Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, USA (as FFG 17, 18, 35 and 44). All together, the USN built 51 FFG7 class ships between 1976 and 1988.

In 1983, the Australian Government decided to build two FFG 7 class guided missile frigates at the then Williamstown Naval Dockyard - now owned and operated by BAE. The first Australian built, by Tenix Defence Pty Ltd, FFG 05, HMAS MELBOURNE, was delivered in 1992. FFG 06, HMAS NEWCASTLE, was delivered in 1993. Together with six FFGs built by Spain (1984-93), and six built by Taiwan (1991-97), FFG 7 variants then comprised the worlds largest single class of warship.The technology in the combat and platform systems of all six RAN FFGs was similar to that in HMAS ADELAIDE despite the time span in delivery of the ships. In the RAN, the supportability of the FFGs was the subject of discussion since 1987, culminating in the initiation of the FFG Upgrade Project in FY 93/94. Between 1993 and 1996, a Surface Combatant Force Study conducted within Defence analysed the capabilities of the surface combatant force (of 14 ships) and concluded that the FFG 7 class required an increase in capability. The results of this study, the rapid advances in technology and the changing strategic environment warranted an upgrading of the FFG's systems. The FFG Upgrade Project (FFG UP) has therefore evolved into providing both needed capability and supportability improvements to the four remaining FFGs.

A Life of Type Extension (LOTE) was planned for the Upgrades for FFGs 01-04. Studies showed that a life of 35 years for the FFG hull is well within naval architectural limits, although present superstructure cracking will continue to be a nuisance. The LOTE was to allow the first four ships to remain in-service until 2013-2017 with the younger two FFGs retiring in 2017-2020.

FFG lineup

After seeking expressions of interest from Industry in 1994, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was released later the same year to prospective contractors. From the final field of four, two contractors were selected in 1995 to conduct Project Definition Studies (PDS): Transfield Defence Systems of Melbourne (TDS) now TENIX Defence Pty Ltd, and ADI Limited of Sydney (ADI). The two contenders were contracted in 1996 to conduct Stage 1 of the PDS, and delivered the results of the Options Study on 18 July and 8 August 1996. The results were then analysed and compared, and incorporated into a Major Capability Submission which formed the basis of Departmental deliberations on the scope of Phase 2 of the Project.

The Government subsequently endorsed a list of capabilities aimed at regaining the relative capability of the FFG through improvements to the ship's self defence capability. The issue of ongoing supportability for the FFG was also addressed through equipment upgrades and the provision of support infrastructure.

The RFT for Phase 2 was issued in November 1997 and closed 9 March 1998. ADI was selected as the preferred tenderer for the FFG UP Phase 2 on 13 Nov 1999. Contract clarifying discussions commenced immediately and formal negotiations began on 22 March 1999. The FFG UP Implementation Phase contract was signed with ADI on 1 June 1999 at a cost of $900m (Feb 1998 prices). The incorporation of options to enhance the Electronic Warfare capability, to upgrade the Operational training facility at HMAS WATSON and for other lesser capabilities increased the final contract price to about $962m (Feb 1998 prices).

The Upgrade work includes improvements to the FFG's self defence and offensive capability, and other modifications to improve equipment reliability and maintenance and enhance crew living quarters. The most significant enhancement is the increased self-defence capabilities against modern Anti Ship Missiles.


Major Surface Ships Branch
FFG Systems Program Office Director
Mr Mal Adams
Level 1, Building 90
(02) 9359 6285
(02) 9359 6221 Fax
0417 409 086 Mobile

Last updated: 15 April 2008

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