Under the SEA 4000 Air Warfare Destroyer program, Australia plans to replace its retired air defense destroyers with modern ships that can provide significantly better protection from air attack, integrate with the US Navy and other coalition partners, offer long-range air warfare defense for Royal Australian Navy task groups, and help provide a coordinated air picture for fighter and surveillance aircraft. Despite their name and focus, the ships are multi-role designs, with a “sea control” mission that includes area air defense, advanced anti-submarine operations, and the ability to fight other ships.
The Royal Australian Navy took a pair of giant steps in June 2007, when it selected winning designs for its keystone naval programs: Canberra Class LHD amphibious operations vessels, and Hobart Class “air warfare destroyers.” Spain’s Navantia made an A$ 11 billion clean sweep, winning both the A$ 3 billion Canberra Class LHD and the A$ 8 billion Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer contracts. The new AWD ships were scheduled to begin entering service with the Royal Australian Navy in 2013, but that date has now slipped to 2016 or so. A 2014 ANAO report examines why – and the answers aren’t pretty.