Lights out for FFG sustainment program

Published on LEUT Geoff Long (author), ABIS Sittichai Sakonpoonpol (photographer)

Topic(s): Guided Missile Frigate (FFG)

The Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates System Program Office staff at Garden Island, Sydney. (photo: ABIS Sittichai Sakonpoonpol)
The Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates System Program Office staff at Garden Island, Sydney.

The last remaining support program for the Navy’s now decommissioned Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates (FFGs) has officially closed.

The FFG Systems Program Office (SPO) was a Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) organisation responsible to Navy for the sustainment of the frigates over the past two decades.

The FFGs were in service from 1980 to 2019, and served in the 1990 Gulf War (ex-HMAS Sydney (IV)) as well as numerous deployments to the Middle East region and across Asia.

Director General of Major Surface Ships, Commodore Rob Elliott, said the SPO’s legacy in terms of people and processes will continue in Navy’s most advanced combat capability - the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers (DDGs).

“We train people up over an extended period of time and aim to re-utilise their sustainment skills across the Surface Fleet as it changes, so while the Adelaide Class is now gone, a lot of those people have moved on to the Hobart Class Destroyer program,” Commodore Elliott said.

“With the very successful evolution of the FFGs, their significant upgrade program, the ability of that class to be sold on to another Navy, it is clear that those sustainment practises worked well and we look forward to replicating these successes in the Destroyer Enterprise.”

The last ship of the six Adelaide Class frigates was decommissioned in Sydney in November 2019.

Two of the frigates, HMA Ships Melbourne and Newcastle, were transferred to the Chilean Navy, with a commissioning ceremony taking place in April this year.

A small number of staff remained with the FFGSPO until the final day to assist with the closure process, including former Warrant Officer Electronics Technician Jari Saarenpaa, who returned to the office as a contractor.

Mr Saarenpaa worked on the frigates since the first sea trials of HMAS Adelaide (II) off the coast of California in the 1980s, and he was also deployed on Newcastle.

He said many of the remaining personnel in the FFGSPO were sad to see it close.

“The people who have gone through the SPO have gained a lot of skills in maintenance and they can pass those skills learned over the years to other platforms. But for many of us we’re still a little sorry to leave such a successful capability,” Mr Saarenpaa said.

The Adelaide Class FFGs were Australia’s primary air warfare surface combatant when the Perth Class Charles F Adams Destroyers retired in 2001, and remained so until replaced by the Hobart Class Destroyers from 2017.