(IV) - Part 2

HMAS Sydney (IV)
Guided Missile Frigate (FFG)
International Callsign
'Steak n Kidney'
Thorough and Ready
Todd Pacific Shipyard Corporation, Seattle
26 September 1980
Launched by
Mrs Marjorie Joyce Willis
29 January 1983
7 November 2015
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 4267 tonnes
Length 138.1 metres
Beam 13.7 metres
Draught 4.5 metres
Speed 29 knots
Range 4500 nautical miles
Crew 210
  • 2 x GE LM 2500 gas turbines
  • 2 x auxiliary electric
  • Harpoon Block x 2
  • Standard SM-2 Block IIIA
  • Mk 41 VLS Launcher
  • 1 OTO Melara 3in (76mm)/62 US Mk 75
  • 20mm Mk 15 Vulvun Phalanx anti-missile system
  • 6 x 12.7mm machine guns
  • 2 x Rafael Mini-Typhoon 12.7mm remote controlled guns (for selected deployments)
Torpedoes 6 x Mk 32 (2 triple) tubes
  • 2 x Sikorsky S-70B and 2 x Seahawks or
  • 1 x Seahawk and 1 x Squirrel
Inherited Battle Honours
Battle Honours
HMAS Sydney (IV) ship badge

She was back at sea on 22 January 1990 conducting shakedown exercises and on 26 January departed Sydney for Cairns under the auspices of Operation DEFERENCE, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contingency plan to evacuate Australians from Bougainville should political tensions there continue to rise. She arrived in Cairns on 28 January but was released from Operation DEFERENCE on 31 January and departed Cairns for New Zealand the following day.

She participated in the Fleet Concentration Period 1/90 in February which was conducted in New Zealand waters in the Bay of Plenty area and included Navy and Air Force units from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. More than 4500 personnel participated over the ten days of the exercise, which was not without incident for Sydney. On 10 February during a towing exercise with HMAS Swan (III), the towing hawser failed and fouled Sydney's propeller requiring her to return to Auckland at slow speed for repairs. She retuned to the exercise on 11 February but the following day, she suffered a power failure while conducting a replenishment with Success necessitating an emergency breakaway. Sydney arrived back in Sydney on 18 February where she began preparations for a deployment that would see her circumnavigate the globe visiting 14 countries.

HMAS Sydney at speed in the Eastern Australian Exercise Area.

She departed Sydney on 5 March in company with HMAS Tobruk (II), which would accompany her as far as Turkey for Anzac Day commemorations. She was forced to make an emergency stop at Esperance, however, as a senior sailor had suffered a suspected heart attack as ship crossed the Great Australian Bight. The sailor made a full recovery but was unable to re-join the ship for the deployment.

After a visit to Fremantle and a brief period exercising off the Western Australian coast, Sydney departed Australian waters on 16 March. Her first overseas port of call was the capital of the Seychelles, Port Victoria, on 28 March where members of both Sydney and Tobruk's ships' companies conducted civil aid projects at Victoria Hospital, an aged care home and a children's playground.

They passed through the Suez Canal on 11 April and visited Alexandria, Egypt, before continuing on to Turkey. They anchored in Anzac Cove on 18 April before arriving in Istanbul the following day. They visited Canakkale on 23 April conducting a memorial service over the wreck of HMAS AE2 en route. They anchored in Anzac Cove on 24 April in preparation for the 75th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli. Members of both ships' companies participated in commemorative services ashore on Anzac Day and Sydney joined Turkish, French and British ships for a sailpast and gun salute off the Turkish Memorial at Cape Helles. At the completion of the commemorative activities, Tobruk detached for return to Australia while Sydney remained in the Mediterranean for exercises with HM Ships Argonaut and Broadsword. She also conducted a memorial service off Cape Spada where HMAS Sydney (II) sunk the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni in 1941.

Sydney and Tobruk replenishing at sea during their deployment to Gallipoli.

The remainder of the European leg of the deployment took Sydney to; Naples, Italy, where some members of the crew travelled to the Vatican for an audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II; Toulon, France; Portsmouth and Portland, UK; Oslo, Norway; Rosyth and Edinburgh, Scotland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Kiel, West Germany. They conducted exercises with FNS Dupleix in the Mediterranean, participated in the NATO Exercise OPEN GATE 90 in the approaches of the Strait of Gibraltar, two multi-national exercises off Portland and the Firth of Forth, and conducted exercises with Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy aircraft while crossing the North Atlantic Ocean to Halifax, Canada. On 18 May while at Portsmouth, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, toured the ship and celebrated the 21st birthday of Able Seaman Chris Gittens with the rest of crew.

Sydney alongside Stockholm.
Sydney alongside in Stockholm, Sweden with festoon lighting rigged.

Sydney arrived in Halifax, her first North American port of call for the deployment, on 21 July for a three day visit before visiting Norfolk, Virginia, USA, from 26 July to 1 August. She conducted exercises with USN units and contributed surveillance support to the US Counter-narcotics Program as she transited south towards Panama. She passed through the Panama Canal on 7 August and conducted exercises with USN and RN units en route to San Diego, California. On 14 August Sydney received a signal instructing her to expedite her return to Australia to prepare for a possible deployment to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation DAMASK. She visited San Diego on 15-19 August, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 25-26 August and Pago Pago, American Samoa, on 1 September. She arrived back in Sydney on 8 September where she commenced a leave and maintenance period.

Sydney returned to sea on 15 October and began an intensive workup programme in preparation for her deployment to the Persian Gulf. She also underwent a number of capability enhancements including new satellite communications equipment, surveillance systems, electronic warfare equipment, new radar absorbent material panels, and improved firefighting and damage control equipment. Her sea boats were also replaced with more robust rigid hull inflatable boats. She departed Sydney on 12 November, in company with Brisbane, having embarked Prime Minister Bob Hawke for a farewell address that morning.

On 30 November, just before entering the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO), the ships were advised that the United Nations Security Council had adopted Resolution 678 authorising the use of force against Iraq unless it withdrew from Kuwait by 15 January 1991. On 3 December, Prime Minister Hawke announced that Australian units were allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and enter the Arabian Gulf. Sydney and Brisbane were to form part of the largest grouping of warships seen since the end of World War II. The multi-national Coalition included some 90 warships, more than 100 logistic, amphibious and smaller craft, and 800 aircraft from 15 nations.

Sydney and Brisbane arrived in the MEAO, via Fremantle and Diego Garcia, on 3 December 1990. They rendezvoused with HMA Ships Success, Darwin and Adelaide that morning and conducted a thorough handover after which they commenced Maritime Interception Force duties. They sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Arabian Gulf for the first time on 16 December.

On 24 December, Sydney was instructed to join five other Coalition warships to assist in the interception of the Libyan sponsored 'Peace Ship' Ibn Khaldoon. In an attempt to embarrass the multi-national force, Ibn Khaldoon had departed Aden in Yemen with 240 women, children and journalists embarked, along with the Iraqi crew of 40, with the intent of breaking the UN-imposed embargo. Sydney joined six other Coalition vessels and was tasked as the lead intercept and challenge unit. They intercepted Ibn Khaldoon on 26 December and, after receiving no response from the vessel after warnings to stop, boarding parties, including one from Sydney, were inserted and took control. The ship was later found to be carrying cargo prohibited by the UN embargo. Sydney was involved in the interception of a second vessel, Ain Zalah, on 30 December, but this vessel was carrying no prohibited cargo and allowed to proceed to Basrah.

Top: Sydney makes a replenishment approach on a tanker during operations in the MEAO. Note the Radar Absorbent Matting (RAM) affixed to her superstructure for this deployment. Bottom: Sydney on patrol in the MEAO.

The UN deadline of 15 January 1991 passed without incident, but at 02:30 on 17 January Operation DESERT STORM began. Sydney and Brisbane formed part of the air defence screen around Battle Force Zulu which included up to three USN aircraft carriers. These duties continued for the duration of the war with Sydney operating primarily in the North and Central Arabian Gulf. Additional duties during the course of the war included search and rescue, aircraft control and escort of detached units.

US President George Bush announced a cease fire on 28 February 1991 though Sydney's responsibilities in the Battle Force Zulu screen remained largely unchanged. Sydney and Brisbane proceeded out of the Arabian Gulf for the last time on 22 March and exited the MEAO on 26 March. They arrived back in Sydney, via Singapore, Darwin and Brisbane, on 22 April where they began a well-earned leave and maintenance period.

Sydney returned to sea on 27 June and re-commenced a normal training programme, which included a visit to Geelong, and began preparing for a planned Sea East Asian deployment. On 5 August, Sydney's Gulf War veterans participated in the Gulf Forces Welcome Home March in Sydney.

On 14 August Sydney was informed that her South East Asian deployment had been cancelled in lieu of a second deployment to the MEAO in support of Operation DAMASK IV. She departed Sydney on 2 September and arrived in the MEAO, via Darwin and Singapore, on 25 September.

Sydney's Commanding Officer Commander Lee Cordner receives 'the weight' from Commander Martyn Bell (HMAS Darwin) during a handover ceremony in Darwin prior to the ship's deployment for Operation DAMASK IV. The Fleet Commander Rear Admiral RAK Walls, RAN also took the opportunity to farewell Sydney and welcome Darwin home.
Sydney's Commanding Officer Commander Lee Cordner receives 'the weight' from Commander Martyn Bell (HMAS Darwin) during a handover ceremony in Darwin prior to the ship's deployment for Operation DAMASK IV. The Fleet Commander Rear Admiral RAK Walls, RAN also took the opportunity to farewell Sydney and welcome Darwin home.

On this occasion, Sydney did not proceed into the Arabian Gulf as she did previously, but instead set course for the North Red Sea. Her task was to enforce UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq by inspecting all merchant shipping bound for the Jordanian port of Aqaba, which provided access to the land border between Iraq and Jordan. Over the ensuing four months, Sydney conducted anywhere between three and eight boardings per day, and conducted 219 boardings over the course of the deployment. Seventeen ships were found to be in breach of UN Security Council sanctions and diverted to approved ports.

HMAS Sydney was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for service in the Persian Gulf on 4 November 1991.
Sydney transiting the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Sydney twice visited the Egyptian port of Hurghada in October, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Safaga in Egypt in November, spent Christmas in Piraeus, Greece, and returned to the North Red Sea on New Year's Day 1992. She again visited Jeddah and Hurghada in January before conducting her last boarding on 27 January and departing the MEAO on 31 January.

Sydney's boarding party inspecting containers during a merchant vessel interception.

She arrived back in Sydney, via Diego Garcia, Singapore, Fremantle and Westernport, on 28 February and once began a post-deployment leave and maintenance period before entering refit in early May.

Sydney arrives alongside HMAS Stirling on her return to Australia.
Sydney arrives alongside HMAS Stirling on her return to Australia.

On 22 June, Sydney became the first major surface combatant to embark females as permanent members of the crew. She returned to sea on 14 August 1992 and began post-refit trials, workup and exercises. On 13 November, the crew exercised the Navy's privilege of Freedom of Entry to the City of Sydney with a march through the city streets as part of Navy Week, and visited Hobart later in the month to participate in Tasmania Day celebrations.

She participated in the Fleet Concentration Period 93-1, off the coast of New South Wales, and Exercise TASMANEX in New Zealand waters in February 1993, after which Sydney visited Wellington before setting course back to Australia on 28 February. Both exercises included naval units from the RNZN.

On 31 May, Sydney received confirmation that she was to deploy to the MEAO for the third time in support of Operation DAMASK and immediately began workup in preparation. The deployment carried particular significance being the first operational deployment of a mixed-gender crew with females fully integrated into boarding party operations. Sydney departed Sydney on 22 June and arrived in the MEAO, via Darwin, Penang and Cochin, on 20 July and proceeded into the North Red Sea, arriving on station four days later. Over the course of the deployment she made port visits to Hurghada, twice to Aqaba in Jordan, Port Suez in Egypt and Jeddah, and visited Iraklion in Crete for a self-maintenance period in September. On 22 October Sydney's Seahawk helicopter helped locate the sinking merchant vessel Ever Obtain for USS Hayler to provide assistance, and four days later the ship's Medical Officer was flown to Hurghada to provide assistance to five tourists, including two Australians, who had been injured in a bus crash. Sydney made a final visit to Hurghada in early November, departing on 5 November to return to Sydney, via Karachi, Singapore, Darwin and Brisbane. She arrived home on 15 December having completed 353 interrogations, 179 boardings and 113 visual identifications during the deployment.

The ship underwent a leave and maintenance period before returning to sea on 28 February 1994. Shortly after midnight on 15 March, Sydney rescued two sailors from the yacht Pacific Breeze which had foundered some 280 nautical miles from Jervis Bay and returned them safely to Sydney, after which she began exercises off the Tasmanian and New South Wales coasts in preparation for deployment to Exercise RIMPAC.

Sydney departed Australian waters for Hawaii, via Suva, Fiji, on 23 April in company with HMA Ships Darwin, Hobart and Success. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 9 May and began preparations for RIMPAC which began on 23 May. Around 25,000 service personnel from Australia, the USA, South Korea, Japan and Canada took part. She departed Hawaii on 23 June and arrived back in Sydney, via Vila, Vanuatu, on 9 July.

Sydney (far right) departs for RIMPAC 94 in company with HMA Ships Success (centre) and Darwin (left), and, in the background, HMAS Hobart.
Sydney (far right) departs for RIMPAC 94 in company with HMA Ships Success (centre) and Darwin (left), and, in the background, HMAS Hobart.

She participated in Exercise SANDGROPER 94 off the coast of Western Australia in October and November 1994 before returning to eastern Australian waters to continue exercises through to the end of the year.

Sydney began 1995 undergoing regular maintenance before returning to sea on 14 February. She participated in Exercise KAKADU II in the Timor Sea off Darwin in March, which involved naval forces from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as observers from the Philippines.

She deployed for South East Asia directly from Darwin, in company with HMA Ships Hobart, Success and Canberra, on 3 April. She conducted port visits to Surabaya in Indonesia, Singapore and Pattaya in Thailand that month while participating in Exercises AUSINA 1/95, IADS 95-2 and AUSTHAI 95. She went on to visit Manila in the Philippines and Hong Kong in May, and exercised with naval units from the USA and the Philippines, before conducting a historic goodwill visit to the Russian port of Vladivostok, the home port of the Russian Pacific Fleet. She arrived on 21 May in heavy fog which reduced visibility to less than 80 metres. She departed on 25 May, after a successful five-day visit, in conditions that were not much better than those on her arrival. She visited Nagoya, Japan, at the end of the month, and Guam in June, exercising with Japanese naval units en route, before returning to Sydney, via Gladstone, on 23 June. She formally went into refit on 10 July.

Sydney returned to sea on 13 November 1995 for post-refit trials and commenced work up exercises in February 1996 while also participating in the Fleet Concentration Period. Sydney returned to Hawaii in May and June to participate in Exercise RIMPAC 96, along with HMA Ships Perth, Newcastle and Success, having visited Lautoka, Fiji, en route. Sydney spent 24 days at sea during the course of the exercise. She participated in Exercise NEW HORIZON VIII in the Java Sea in July before arriving home in Sydney on 2 August, having visited Guam, Surabaya, Townsville and Brisbane since the end of RIMPAC. Upon her return, she re-commenced a routine programme of training and maintenance off the Australian east coast, including visits to Hobart later that month and Brisbane in September.

Sydney conducting exercises with the Indonesian Naval Ships Arun (903) and Ahmad Yani (351) in 1996.
Sydney conducting exercises with the Indonesian Naval Ships Arun (903) and Ahmad Yani (351) in 1996.

She once again participated in the Fleet Concentration Period in February 1997, and the inaugural Exercise TANDEM THRUST in March, the biggest joint exercise between Australia and the USA since World War II. More than 27,000 personnel, 43 ships and 229 aircraft participated.

Sydney was assigned to Operation BARITONE on 23 March, the contingency plan to evacuate Australians from Papua New Guinea in the wake of political and civil unrest in what later became known as the Sandline Affair. On 27 March, while en route to a patrol area off Port Moresby, Sydney was released from Operation BARITONE following the resignation of the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, the previous day.

She returned to exercises in northern Australian waters in April before making an emergency rendezvous with HMAS Westralia on 9 April, in combination with HMAS Melbourne, to MEDIVAC a sailor from Westralia to Darwin. She continued on to Pulau Tioman, Malaysia, where she arrived on 13 April to participate in Exercise FLYING FISH involving naval units from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and the UK. Following FLYING FISH, she visited Kuantan, Malaysia, and conducted further exercises in the South China Sea before setting course for Singapore to participate in Exercise SINGAROO 97 in May. She arrived home in Sydney, via Darwin and Townsville, on 30 May where she recommenced a routine programme of training and maintenance. She briefly visited Hobart early in August before entering refit in Sydney later in the month.

Sydney in company with her sister FFGs.
Sydney in company with her sister FFGs.

Sydney returned to sea on 9 February 1998 for post-refit trials and commenced workup in March. She visited Western Australia in April where the ship's company participated in Anzac Day commemorations in Perth. On 5 May, Sydney provided a medical team and equipment to HMAS Westralia when a fire broke out in the support ship's main engine room tragically claiming the lives of four members of her crew. Sydney returned to eastern Australian waters later in the month.

Sydney departed Sydney on 17 August in company with HMA Ships Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart, and conducted exercises with the returning RIMPAC Task Group before arriving in Darwin, via Mackay, on 28 August. She participated in the Fleet Concentration Period in September and departed Darwin on 21 September, in company with HMAS Anzac and HMNZ Ships Endeavour and Wellington, for Asian waters. They visited Guam and conducted exercises with HMS Grafton and FNS Surcouf en route to Chinhae, South Korea, where they participated in the Republic of Korea Navy International Fleet Review celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Korea on 13 October. Some 31 nations sent representatives for the event and the international fleet sailed from Chinhae to Pusan following the review. Sydney visited Tokyo and Sasebo, conducting exercises with Anzac and ships of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF), before making a rare visit to Shanghai from 1 to 4 November. She went on to visit Hong Kong, Manila and Surabaya, conducting exercises with Australian, Philippine and Indonesian navy vessels before arriving back in Sydney, via Darwin and Brisbane, on 10 December.

After undergoing a maintenance period at the beginning of 1999, Sydney departed Sydney on 9 March as part of Task Group 627.5 to participate in Exercise TANDEM THRUST 99, on this occasion conducted in the waters around the Marianas Islands and included Navy, Air Force and Marine units from Australia, the USA, Canada, Singapore and South Korea. Sydney arrived at Guam on 18 March and the exercise commenced three days later. Upon the conclusion of TANDEM THRUST on 3 April, and following a visit to Saipan, Sydney proceeded to the South China Sea to participate in an International Air Defence Exercise including Navy and Air Force units from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. The exercise was suspended on 18 April and Sydney joined search and rescue operations after a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F111 bomber crashed on an island. Initial reports suggested that the two RAAF officers aboard may have ejected before impact but, tragically, this proved not to be the case. Sydney went on to visit Phuket and Surabaya before returning to Sydney, via Darwin and Cairns, on 27 May where she re-commenced a routine programme of training and maintenance.

A topside view of HMAS Sydney.
An aerial view of HMAS Sydney.

At the end of July, Sydney joined 30 ships and 6000 personnel from nine different nations in Darwin for Exercise KAKADU, held in northern Australian waters between 2 and 12 August. She had her SONAR dome, which had been damaged on passage back to Sydney in August, replaced in September and sailed for Darwin on 25 October prior to deploying to East Timor under the auspices of Operation STABILISE, the Australian Defence Force's contribution to the International Force East Timor (INTERFET). She arrived in Dili, in company with HMCS Protecteur, on 4 November and continued on the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi, located on the western side of the island of Timor, the following day.

The naval component of the INTERFET Coalition included units from Australia, the USA, Canada, France, Italy, Portugal, Singapore, New Zealand and Thailand. Sydney's primary mission was the conduct of presence and surveillance in the Oecussi enclave though it quickly became apparent that she would have a significant role to play in supporting the INTERFET forces ashore as well as providing humanitarian support to the local community. She conducted operations off Oecussi for the duration of her deployment provided hotel services to INTERFET personnel, provided meals and other services to INTERFET personnel ashore, conducted eight aeromedical evacuations to Dili using the ship's Seahawk helicopter, expended some 3600 man hours in humanitarian assistance including the provision of medical assistance daily, and loaned personnel to other INTERFET units both afloat and ashore. She departed the Area of Operations on 17 December and arrived back in Sydney, via Darwin, on Christmas Eve.


Further reading