The modern fighting frigate is called upon to handle a variety of at-sea roles including direct combat, deterrence, escort, and reconnaissance. During the 1970s, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) developed what would become its Adelaide-class of six strong ships to take over the same role as the aging stock of post-World War 2-era Daring-class destroyers. The Adelaide-class was born from the aborted Australian Light Destroyer Project, which ended in 1973, and were based in the framework of the new Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate design standard being adopted by the United States Navy (USN). The American class beat out a rival design of British origin, the Type 42 destroyer series.
Initially, the Australian Navy was granted two of the warships by its government but this eventually increased to four and then six. In Australian naval service, the series would be known as the Adelaide-class with HMAS Adelaide as its lead - they also marked the first RAN ships to be powered by gas turbines. One of her sisters became HMAS Melbourne (FFG-05).
HMAS Melbourne, ordered under the 1980 defense budget, saw her keel laid down by shipbuilder Australian Marine Engineering Consolidated on July 12th, 1985. The vessel was launched to sea for trials on May 5th, 1989 and formally commissioned for service on February 15th, 1992. Fighting under the motto of "Vires Acquirit Eundo" (translating to "She gathers strength as she goes"), the warship has been in active service with the RAN since - and remains so as of April 2018. She inherited three Battle Honours from previous RAN warships and went on to earn two of her own (EAST TIMOR 20)0 and PERSIAN GULF 2002).
As built, the warship displaced 4,100 tons and was given an overall length of 453 feet with a beam measuring 45 feet and a draught down to 25 feet. Power was from a conventional twin General Electric LM2500 marine gas turbine arrangement with these units outputting 41,000 combined horsepower and driving 2 x Shafts under stern. There were also 2 x Auxiliary propulsor jets offering an additional 650 horsepower available. Maximum speed in ideal conditions could reach 29 knots and range was out to 4,500 nautical miles.
Aboard was a crew of 184 to include air wing personnel as a pair of medium-lift helicopters were supported through the stern-based combination helipad-hangar section (typically the Sikorsky MH-60R "Seahawk"). The warship was outfitted with various sensors and processing systems which today include the AN/SPS-49 air-search radar, the AN/SPS-55 surface-search radar, and the SPG-60 Fire Control radar.
Armament-wise, the warship carries 1 x 76mm OTO-Melara turreted deck gun at the forecastle, 1 x 8-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) (for the "Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile), and 2 x Mark 32 triple torpedo tubes. Rounding out the armament suite is 1 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), 2 to 6 x 12.7mm trainable heavy machine guns, and the optional 2 x 12.7mm Raphael M2HB "Mini Typhoon" CIWS.
The original armament fit included support for Harpoon anti-ship missiles as well as RIM-66 Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles fired from a Mark 13 series launcher unit. The Mark 41 VLS appeared in a 2005 upgrade modernization effort to keep the vessel viable for modern naval warfare.
Melbourne's initial deployment saw her sent to the volatile Persian Gulf theater in 1996. In early-2000, she was stationed near East Timor to assist in the unrest there. 2002 saw the warship take part in "Operation Slipper" as part of the UN-led enforcement action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In 2003, she participated in the US-led invasion of Iraq which ended Hussein's grip on power (but added severe destabilization to the region). In the mid-2000s, the class, including Melbourne, received a massive modernization to their weaponry, sensors, radars, and general combat readiness and capabilities. HMAS Melbourne returned to Middle East waters in mid-2010 and engaged in anti-piracy actions in and around the Arabian Sea. Since 2014, she has been engaged in anti-smuggling operations in waters around Australia.
Of the four Adelaide-class vessels commissioned, four have been decommissioned as of April 2018. These are Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, and Darwin. Adelaide and Canberra were sunk as diving wrecks in 2011 and 2009, respectively, and Sydney was scrapped. Darwin, decommissioned in December of 2017, awaits her scrapping fate. Only HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle remain active from the original stock - though their years appear to be marked.