HMAS Brisbane was a Perth-class guided missile destroyer built by the United States as a modified Charles F. Adams-class destroyer. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) had purchased the County-class destroyers from Britain, however the RAN felt the Sea Slug missile system had limitations. The Sea Slug was a high performance weapon with a single kill probability of 92%. It was limited due to its complex handling requirements and each County-class ship was fitted with just a single fire control radar able to identify and engage only one target at a time. The RAN reviewed all options and ordered two modified Charles F. Adams-class destroyers from Defoe Shipbuilding Company of Bay City, Michigan in January 1962. A third was ordered in June 1963 as HMAS Brisbane (D41).
The modification required by the RAN to Defoe for the American ships was the addition of two broad deckhouses between the funnels for the Ikara ASW missile system, built to hold a single arm missile launcher rather than a twin arm launcher. The ships were the first of a series of American designs to enter service in the RAN. The Ikara missile was a RAN launched anti-submarine missile named after an Australian Aboriginal word for "throwing stick". An acoustic homing torpedo had a range of 10 nautical miles (19 km), used as a fast reaction attack against submarines at close range without risk to the attacking ship. The torpedo was designed to fly to the general area of the target, then submerging as a torpedo, giving the submarine less time to respond and target the destroyer.
HMAS Brisbane's construction was ordered and she was laid down by Defoe in February of 1965. While the ship was under construction, future Australian crew members came to Bay City to train on the ship and prepare her for commissioning. Some crew members came with their families but, without enough temporary housing available, the local residents came forward and provided accommodations for the American allies from Down Under. The ship was launched on May 5th, 1966, and she was christened by the wife of the Lord Mayor of Brisbane who thanked the builders for their fine work. Many Australians came to the 'States for the ceremony and 5,000 people witnessed the launching. Brisbane, nicknamed by her crew as the "Steel Cat", was commissioned into the RAN on December16th, 1967.
While returning to home waters she completed her sea trials and, in 1969, Brisbane was sent to Vietnam and served as an anti-aircraft ship in support of American carriers on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. She participated in two major operations during the Vietnam War - "Sea Dragon" and "Market Time". Operation Sea Dragon was a series of naval operations to find and stop sea lanes of supplies going south from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. The Sea Dragon forces goal was interception and destruction of WaterBorne Logistic Craft (WBLC) - from large self-propelled barges on down to small junks and sampans. As some targets were located onshore, the Steel Cat would use her 5-inch guns to destroy land targets when needed.
Operation Market Time was another of the U.S. Navy's effort to stop troops and supplies from flowing by sea from North Vietnam's supply operation into South Vietnam. Most of the allied ships operated in the coastal waters from the Cambodian border around southern Vietnam and north towards Da Nang. North Vietnamese trawlers that were built in China could carry several tons of arms and ammunition. Not flying identifying flags, the ships would maneuver out in the South China Sea and, under the cover of darkness, make high speed runs to the South Vietnam coastline. The ships used in Market Time - like HMAS Brisbane - operated both day and night and in any weather condition for more than eight years, doing tough duty to minimize the delivery of war material into South Vietnam.
The RAN also aided in natural disasters when possible. Such a time came when Cyclone Tracy struck Australia and many ships at sea were lost or swamped. The RAN patrolled the coastal waters looking for survivors' Reports held that more than 22 people were lost at sea and 49 people died on land. Darwin was also hit and RAN sent thirteen ships (including Brisbane) to transport supplies to the people as part of "Operation Navy Help Darwin" - the largest humanitarian operation ever performed by the RAN.
In 1991 Brisbane and the RAN supported the international coalition sending military forces to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, known as Desert Storm. Brisbane underwent modifications prior to her deployment - two Vulcan Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) were added for short-ranged air defense, her communications systems were updated, chaff launchers were added as were radar absorbent panels. Australia's contribution to the 1991 Persian Gulf War was strictly naval in nature and meant to support the Naval Task Group which formed part of the multi-national fleet in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman under Operation Damask. Brisbane also deployed three Clearance Divers to assist in the location and destruction of sea mines threatening the Gulf. In addition, Brisbane deployed medical teams to a US hospital ship, providing support to the Coalition Forces during this campaign. Brisbane was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation by the Australian Government for her actions in the war.
Brisbane was decommissioned on October 19th, 2001, and the Australian Government decided she would be sunk as a dive wreck off the coast of Queensland. Before the sinking, her bridge and one of her 5-inch (127 mm) guns were removed and placed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to remember her important contribution to the history of the RAN. Brisbane was sunk approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) off of the coast on July 31st, 2005, in 30 meters (98 feet) of water. The top of her funnels can be seen lying just three meters below the water at low tide.
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