During the 1980s, the Royal Westralian Navy began plans to replace their Esperance-class frigates, which despite extensive modernisations were recognised as beginning to rapidly age and approach obsolescence (having been built upon lengthened Leander hulls). Various proposals were made and designs examined, with the initial idea being to modify a foreign design to meet Westralian needs, though to a lesser extent than ships in the past. Serious consideration was given to joining with Australia and New Zealand in their ANZAC program, however it was ultimately decided that the design requirements didn't entirely align with the program. It was not until 1995, and another modernisation program for the existing Esperance-class, that it was decided to design and build a new class of frigate entirely within Westralia, with technical assistance provided by Blohm+Voss.
By the turn of the millennium, the design for the new class was finalised and construction began in NWS' Henderson shipyard. Many of the systems and weapons fit out was to be recycled from the Esperence class to reduce costs, and the modular nature of construction that had been settled upon would allow easier future upgrades. A modular section just forward of the bridge was designed to allow the easy fitment of differing VLS systems if need be, allowing upgrades to the weapons of the class when required. Blohm+Voss' technical involvement heavily influenced the design, with a number of features borne out of work on South Africa's MEKO based Valour-class. Signature reduction measures were crucial elements to the design, principally the use of X-form based architecture and expelling pre-cooled exhaust gases just above the water-line through an exhaust on the transom, much like B+V's MEKO A200 design.
In 2001, the new class of frigate was officially named the Broome
-class, and the first of class, Broome
, was launched in 2004 and commissioned in 2005.
Displacement: 4800 tons
Range: 7500nm at 16kts
Armament: Mk45 Mod 1 127mm, 2x GAM-B01 20mm, 2x .50 M2, 16-cell Mk41 VLS with RIM-7M, 8x RGM-84 Harpoon, Mk46 Torpedo, Phalanx Block 1A CIWS
Systems: SPS-49, SMART S, SPS-55 Navigation Radar, Thales Sonar 2050, Type 2031 Towed Array Sonar
Aviation and Boats: Room for up to 2x Westland Lynx, normally with one fitted for anti-submarine missions and one for SAR/GP. 2x RHIBs mounted on davits amidships
By 2012, it was seen that the class was already struggling to maintain capability in comparison to many contemporary designs. As such, the RWN commissioned an extensive refit, which many saw as closer to a rebuild (and an expensive one at that) of the class, with new sensors and systems, chiefly a new radar developed from Australia's CEAFAR and tailored for Westralian needs, weapons changes, and further signature reductions. Heavy emphasis was given on improving automation also. Ships were controversially submitted for refit two at a time, starting in 2014, with the first two (Broome
) completing refit in 2017 and rejoining the fleet as the other two entered refit. Completion of the refit program is expected in 2020.
Displacement: 5400 tons
Range: 7300nm at 16kts
Armament: Mk 45 Mod 4, Nexter Narhwal 20mm, Oto Melara Hitrole .50 RWS, 32 x Mk41 Strike Length (with SM-2 and ESSM though cruise-missiles are intended to be fitted), 8 x Harpoon fitted behind doors on the weapons module forward of VLS cells (to be replaced by cannister launched LRASM Post-2020), MU90 Impact torpedo, Millenium Gun 35mm CIWS
Sensors and Systems: CEAFAR 2(W), Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye (both S and X-Band antennae), Safran Vampir NG, Rafael TopLite MHD, Ultra Electronics Sonar 2150, Thales CAPTAS 4
Aviation and Boats: Room for up to two AgustaWestland Wildcat, or one NH90 and smaller UAVs, 2 x RHIBs mounted on davits amidships behind roller-doors