On 23 May the first of a new class of air-warfare destroyers, the Hobart, was launched in South Australia. Intended to provide advanced fleet air defense for the Royal Australian Navy, this new class of Aegis-equipped warships is based on the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán–class (Project F-100) guided-missile frigates but features a number of enhancements. Initially the Hobart was expected to enter service by early 2015, but current plans now call for the ship to join the fleet in mid-2017, followed by younger sister HMAS Brisbane in late 2018 and the final unit, HMAS Sydney, in early 2020. The price tag for these three ships has risen dramatically in recent years, with cost estimates now running in excess of 9 billion Australian dollars (roughly $7 billion U.S.) for the total program. Once in service, the 7,000-ton (full load) Hobart and her sisters promise to provide much in the way of air defense for friendly ships, land forces, and coastal infrastructure against enemy missile and aircraft attacks.
By Eric Wertheim