The last remaining support program for the now decommissioned Adelaide-class guided missile frigates (FFGs), the FFG Systems Program Office (FFGSPO), officially closed on November 30.

It was a Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) organisation responsible to Navy for the sustainment of the frigates for the past two decades.

The FFGs were in service from 1980-2019 and were part of Navy’s participation in the 1990 Gulf War (ex-HMAS Sydney) as well as numerous deployments to the Middle East region and across Asia.

Director General of Major Surface Ships Commodore Rob Elliott said its legacy, in terms of people and processes, would continue in Navy’s most advanced combat capability, the Hobart-class destroyers.

“We train people up over an extended period of time and aim to re-use 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 of the six Adelaide-class frigates were decommissioned in Sydney in November 2019. 

Two of the frigates, HMA Ships Melbourne (FFG 05) and Newcastle (FFG 06), were transferred to the Chilean Navy (Armada de Chile), with a commissioning ceremony taking place in April this year in Sydney.

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. 

The former warrant officer had worked on the Adelaide-class frigates since the first sea trials of HMAS Adelaide off the coast of California in the 1980s, and he was also deployed in Newcastle when she was later commissioned. 

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,” Warrant Officer 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.