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Sydneys III, IV and V did not get the opportunity to show their true mettle as did numbers  I and II. After 1945 there were no more “real” wars that involved our country. There were UN peacekeeping operations and participation in conflicts undertaken by the Coalition of the Willing. Korea was officially dubbed a UN peacekeeping operation. Vietnam was a war between North & South Vietnam where our role was to support an ally, the USA in flushing out the Viet Cong.

Nevertheless to those who were taking part the bullets, bombs and shells were real and lethal regardless of the handle given to the conflict and whenever the call went out to give support to our allies our response as always was “Australia will be there!”

At the end of WW2, Britain had six light aircraft carriers in various stages of construction. They were of the Majestic class of ships and upon cessation of hostilities construction stopped. The most advanced of these had already been launched and named. They were HMS Terrible and HMS Majestic.

In June 1947 the Australian government decided to form a Fleet Air Arm and purchase two aircraft carriers. Earlier proposals for the formation of a dedicated naval air service were dropped due to objections from the RAAF but the success of naval air power, particularly that of the US carrier task forces in the Pacific during WW2, persuaded the government to proceed.

A decision was made to purchase the two most advanced carriers under construction in Britain and the first of these was HMS Terrible. On 16th December, 1948 this ship was commissioned into the RAN and renamed HMAS Sydney.


In 1950 she returned to England to take on a further compliment of three squadrons of aircraft; Fairy Fireflies and Hawker Sea Furies and participate in exercises with the Royal Navy.

In 1951 the Korean War had begun. Sydney was deployed to Korea where she operated in a strike, ground support and escort role during which she lost 13 aircraft and another 90 damaged by flak. Three of the pilots were killed and another seriously wounded. Sydney was the carrier for the British Naval Forces in the Korean theatre. During this period she joined with the US 7th Fleet and was in command of Task Element (TE) 95.


In 1952 she left Korea having undertaken seven patrols, flying 2,366 sorties and dropping 1,162 bombs. Following a refit, her aircraft were transferred to shore base at Nowra and life was made up of training, naval exercises and flag-waving journeys. Her only defensive role was acting as a security vessel for the British atomic test on the Monte Bello islands

Her role as a carrier ended in 1958 when she was paid off but immediately she came to the attention of the Army which wanted a fast troop transport. She was refitted and recommissioned in 1962 into her new role.

Between 1965 and 1972 she made 24 round trips to Vietnam carrying troops and equipment. Her final trip in 1972 was to bring home the troops from Vietnam after the Whitlam government withdrew our participation in that conflict.


Ca 1960s: Vietnam bound soldiers on HMAS SYDNEY [III] watch HMAS VAMPIRE [II] passing - RAN.

In 1975 she was sold to a South Korean steel company for scrap.

HMAS Sydney IV was an Adelaide class guided missile frigate commissioned in 1983. She was built at the Todd Pacific Shipyard in Seattle, USA. Designated as an FFG. FFG and DDG are designations according to NATO nomenclature based on US Navy parlance. The “F” stands for frigate. The "G“stands for Guided missile. A DDG is a guided missile destroyer.


Her operational roles were four tours in the Middle East as part of UN and US task forces including Desert Storm and the Gulf War and supporting the international force in the relief of East Timor.

In 2004 the Howard government embarked on an extensive upgrade of the four Adelaide class frigates. This task was fraught with technical difficulties and was still incomplete four years later. In 2008 the RAN refused to accept the redesigned ships into service but the flaws were rectified and Sydney was redeployed for service in the Gulf area in 2009. In 2015 she returned to Sydney and became a port based training ship until 2017 when she was sold for scrap.


The fifth HMAS Sydney is still in commission. She is a guided missile destroyer (DDG42) launched in 2018 and commissioned in 2020. She is one of three Hobart class destroyers built in Osborne, South Australia by ASC Pty.Ltd.

The design and construction aspects of the project were spread over several sub-contractors in several different nations; Spain, England, Germany, USA as well as Australia. The execution of the project was constantly criticised by the National Audit Office and was years over time and more than a billion dollars over budget.


Sydney V was the first warship to be built Australia using modular techniques of building component parts in detached locations and bringing them together for assembly like a Meccano set. The method was not new. It had been perfected by the American industrialist Henry Kaiser in 1942 when he revolutionised American shipbuilding for the war effort. At the time the construction of a Liberty ship by conventional methods was about 18 months. Kaiser reduced that to about 18 days by having whole sections built in inland centres then transporting them to his shipyard in Richmond, California for assembly.


His record time was 4 days for the construction of a 10,000 ton cargo ship from start to finish.

The pathetic record of time and cost overruns on this project for the construction of HMAS Sydney is an indictment on the competency of government-initiated and managed contracts, the management of those successful tenderers and the unions whose self-interest has always come before the national interest. God help us all if we are forced to rely on these people when they are under real pressure.

Although they have never been deployed to battle these three destroyers are intended for the air defence of a naval task force but also have capability to engage in ship to ship missile warfare, support of land based forces with conventional naval gunfire and anti-submarine capability. The armament also includes a helicopter with surveillance and assault capability.

This video is of the HMAS Hobart but it is of the same class as the HMAS Sydney V and I include this video for interest as to her capabilities.


The standard ship’s company is 31 officers and 203 other ranks. She has a maximum speed of 28 knots (52 KPH) with a range of 5,000 nautical miles ((9,300 kms). Speed has been sacrificed for range given the long distances needed to be covered in Australian waters.

She will be the last of the Hobart class destroyers to be built and has yet to fire a shot in anger.

Unlike her more famous forebears, the Sydney V does not rely on conventional naval gunnery. Her armament both for offence and defence is built around missiles supplemented with torpedoes. She is a very much more lethal weapon than any of her more famous ancestors but has yet to be tested in battle. The adage that gentle people sleep soundly in their beds at night because hard men are ready to commit mayhem on their behalf is an apt description of the fighting capabilities of our latest HMAS Sydney.

Let us hope and pray that we never have to employ her talents

Lest We Forget





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