The expansive coastline of modern Australia forces its military to field a capable and all-modern ocean-going fighting force - particularly to better secure its interests in the vast Pacific Theater. The Anzac-class frigate was developed for its navy service (the Royal Australian Navy - RAN) in the late-1980s/early-1990s to succeed the aging lines of River-class destroyer escorts and Leander-class frigates. The result today is a ten-strong group of fighting surface warships suitable for tackling many of the roles pressed upon modern navies today. Two of the ten serve with the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).
The New Anzac-class
Twelve ships were originally planned for the Anzac-class but two were eventually cancelled. One of the original number remains HMAS Toowoomba (FFH-156) who saw its keel laid down on July 26th, 2002 by ship-builder Tenix Defence Systems. The vessel was launched on May 16th, 2003 and it was formally commissioned on October 8th, 2005, maintaining an active status in the RAN fleet today (2018) while homeporting out of Fleet Base West. The warship fights under the motto of "Fearless" and carries two Battle Honours - "PACIFIC 1942" and "INDIAN OCEAN 1942-44" - to her name (both of these inherited from previous RAN warships named "Toowoomba").
HMAS Toowoomba is the seventh of the eight Anzac-class ships built for the RAN. Her role is classified as fitting long-range surface endeavors with armament suitable for airspace denial and able to counter surface and undersea threats. She can also partake in interdiction and reconnaissance sorties as required.
The Anzac-class is based in the German Blohm & Voss "MEKO 200" frigate standard design which beat out a Dutch and British tender during the competition phase of the Australian program.
Displacement, Dimensions, Installed Power, and Performance
The warship sees a displacement reaching 3,600 tonnes under full loads and holds an overall length of 387 feet, a beam reaching 49 feet, and a draught of just 13 feet (the latter quality given the ship a close-to-shore capability). Power is from 1 x General Electric LM2500 gas turbine outputting 30,000 horsepower and 2 x MTU 12V1163TB83 marine diesels outputting an additional 8,840 horsepower. This propels the ship to speeds of 27 knots out to ranges of 6,000 nautical miles. The combination powerplant is categorized as "CODOG" standing for "COmbined Diesel Or Gas" and defined by the ship's ability to rely on the gas turbine for fast, dashing actions and the twin diesels for general cruising actions (and thus saving fuel and maximizing efficiency). The arrangement drives power to 2 x Shafts under stern.
Crew, Sensors, and Systems
Aboard is a crew numbering about 170 personnel trained for various roles about the warship - cooking, cleaning, security, weapons, sensors and the like. The ship carries an array of search/tracking and self-defense measures including the Raytheon AN/SPS-49(V)8 ANZ (C/D-band) air-search radar, the CelsiusTech 9LV 453 TIR G-band surface-search radar, and the Atlas Elektronik 9600 ARPA I-band series navigation suite. The Racal (modified) "Sceptre A" and Telefunfen PST-1720 "Telegon" 10 series units form the ESM component of the ship. CounterMeasures (CM) are available in the form of the SRBOC Mk 36 Mod 1 decoy launcher unit. The Thomson Sintra "Spherion B" (Mod 5) is the primary hull-based sonar fit while there is support for a towed array as well.
Installed and Supported Armament
The armament suite of HMAS Toowoomba is consistent with other frigate-type surface combatants of today and is a mix of projectile-based and missile-based weaponry. There is a single 5" turreted deck gun over the forecastle and this is backed by 1 x 8-cell Mark 41 Mod 5 Vertical Launch System (VLS) provisioned for the RIM-7 "Sea Sparrow" / RIM-162 "Evolved Sea Sparrow" surface-to-air medium-ranged missile (a second VLS cell is supported but apparently not fitted). There are 2 x 4-cell "Harpoon" anti-ship missile launchers fitted as well (after 2005) as well as 2 x Mk 32 324mm triple-torpedo tubes. 2 to 4 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns are carried for extreme close-in defense.
HMAS Toowoomba in Profile
The profile of HMAS Toowoomba is conventional as modern fighting frigates go. She has a short, unobstructed forecastle headlined by a single turreted deck gun. Aft of this is the hull superstructure which is more or less a continuous piece running from aft of the forecastle to ahead of the stern-based helipad. The bridge sits atop the forward section of the superstructure with a commanding view over the bow. Atop this area is the main mast of tripod form (now enclosed) mounting the various communications, sensors, and radar fits. A secondary mast is fitted just aft of this and ahead of the low-profile smoke funnels. The hangar is attached to the primary hull superstructure and takes up the section aft of midships. Some stealth features are built into the design including slab sides and a generally low-profile appearance.
Over the rear of the ship is a combination hangar-helipad which supports a single Sikorsky MH-60R (S-70B-2) "Seahawk" navalized helicopter. This aerial system can be used in the at-sea resupply role, in the hunting and tracking of enemy warships and submarines (ASW), and in the Search And Rescue (SAR) roles.
Operational History to Date
Toowoomba's initial operational deployment took her to Middle East waters in early 2007. A similar voyage greeted her in 2009 and she took part in the defense of commerce and civilian vessels against Somali pirates off the Somali coast as part of an allied initiative led by the United States. During the early part of 2013, the warship formed with the United States Navy's Carrier Strike Group 3 as part of a show-of-force in the hotly contested South China Sea region. The following year, she was used in the search for the mission Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (to no avail as the aircraft remains missing as of April 2018). In 2015, the warship received a missile defense upgraded to better prepare her for emerging threats. She has more recently returned to operate in and near the South China Sea with both Australian units as well as allied naval forces.