The ship has received an extensive refit and upgrade, but the Australian Navy can't find enough crew for it.

Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Perth has been stuck in dry dock for two years because there are not enough sailors to put the warship out to sea.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) ‘The Cost of Defence’ report states that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has not been able to meet the “modest” personal recruitment goals laid out in the 2016 defence white paper.

Report author and former Defence official Dr Marcus Hellyer said the recruitment problem was underlined by the case of Anzac frigate HMAS Perth that had been out of operation since October 2017.

“HMAS Perth, one of Navy’s frigates, had gone through a very extensive refit and upgrade, got new radar capabilities, so a lot of investment went into that, but at the end of that process Navy couldn’t find a crew for it,” Hellyer said.

“So, it’s essentially sitting up on blocks for two years, out of the water because Navy doesn’t have the people and I think that’s really a microcosm of the challenges the defence force is facing.”

Hellyer’s report found that the ADF target of employing an extra 1,730 people since the white paper was published had only brought in 600 people.

Australia has a fleet of eight Anzac class frigates and Hellyer found that two of the warships were almost always in repair.

His ASPI report also called on the ADF to “devote more resources to autonomous systems”, such as unmanned submarines and aircraft drones.

“One of the advantages of autonomous systems is less people, because these systems can do a lot of the job themselves,” Hellyer said.

“Much of the cost of military platforms is due to the need to keep the crew alive, as is much of the complexity of design.

“Remove the crew, and the cost, risk and schedule needed to design and build the platforms decreases dramatically.”