HMAS Anzac

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Those who were more observant than usual during the singing of the Australian anthem at last week’s game at Ellis Park might have noticed that it was sung by a woman wearing a naval uniform with “HMAS Anzac” on her hat. For most, this would have been unremarkable, but for ship and navy buffs it marks a bit of a momentous occasion.

On the 23rd of July, the HMAS Anzac docked in Simonstown, making it the first visit to our shores by an Australian warship in 37 years. This is actually rather surprising, considering our relative proximity to them as well as the joint anti fisheries poaching operations that have been carried out by the Royal Australian Navy and SA Navy in the past few years, but then I suppose it’s also true that with the Suez Canal there is no logical reason for any Australian Navy vessel to round the Cape.

Incidentally, the Anzac is not here for a formal visit, it’s just an informal stopover as it returns to Australia from the Battle of Trafalgar commemoration fleet review in England (where it was joined by our own SAS Drakensberg), but symbolically it is nonetheless an important visit. Hopefully this will lead to yet greater co-operation between our respective navies.

For those wishing to see the Anzac, unfortunately it shall only remain docked in Cape Town’s harbour until sometime tomorrow (the 28th). Still, those who are already in Cape Town and might wish to see something different and rare could do worse than making a trip down to the harbour in the morning.

One very interesting thing about the Anzac is that it’s a MEKO 200 type vessel, in short the same basic design as our own Valour class patrol corvettes. However, the Anzac was commissioned just under 10 years ago, and the advances in the MEKO design since then are rather striking. For example, the SA Navy’s Valour-class ships have a much smoother and stealthier shape, have no visible funnels, utilise a waterjet for propulsion in addition to their conventional system and require less crew to operate.

The differences are best seen when comparing photos. This is an overhead photo of the HMAS Anzac, in which you can clearly see the funnels and increased clutter, whereas this is an overhead photo of the SAS Amatola. To compare the two is to realise just how far ship technology has advanced in the last decade thanks to advances in computing power. As an aside, it also highlights the stupidity of naming SA’s new ships “patrol corvettes” instead of “frigates”, despite the fact that they’re so similar to the Anzac frigates in terms of vessel size and weapons fitment. The decision to use that term was apparently a political one, as part of an attempt to make the ships seem more acceptable to the general population (after all, a frigate is seen as unnecessary and unaffordable by most, whereas patrol corvettes sound ok). Hopefully they’ll redesignate them as frigates once they embark their SuperLynx helicopters after 2007, but I doubt it.