As designed, Newcastle had a full load displacement of 4,100 tons, a length overall of 138.1 metres (453 ft), a beam of 13.7 metres (45 ft), and a draught of 4.5 metres (15 ft). Propulsion machinery consists of two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, which provide a combined 41,000 horsepower (31,000 kW) to the single propeller shaft. Top speed is 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), with a range of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Two 650-horsepower (480 kW) electric auxiliary propulsors are used for close maneuvering, with a top speed of 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph). Standard ship's company is 184, including 15 officers, but excluding the flight crew for the embarked helicopters.
Original armament for the ship consisted of a Mark 13 missile launcher configured to fire RIM-66 Standard and RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, supplemented by an OTO Melara 76-millimetre (3.0 in) gun and a Vulcan Phalanx point-defence system. As part of the mid-2000's FFG Upgrade Project, an eight-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System was fitted, with a payload of RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. For anti-submarine warfare, two Mark 32 torpedo tube sets are fitted; originally firing the Mark 44 torpedo, the Adelaide's later carried the Mark 46, then the MU90 Impact following the FFG Upgrade. Up to six 12.7-millimetre (0.50 in) machine guns can be carried for close-in defence, and since 2005, two M2HB .50 calibre machine guns in Mini Typhoon mounts have been installed when needed for Persian Gulf deployments.
The sensor suite includes an AN/SPS-49 air search radar, AN/SPS-55 surface search and navigation radar, SPG-60 fire control radar connected to a Mark 92 fire control system, and an AN/SQS-56 hull-mounted sonar. Two helicopters can be embarked: either two S-70B Seahawk or one Seahawk and one AS350B Squirrel.
During 2005, Newcastle was deployed to the Persian Gulf. Newcastle and HMAS Parramatta were the first RAN ships to be fitted with two M2HB .50 calibre machine guns in Mini Typhoon mounts; now a standard theatre fit for all RAN frigates deployed to the Persian Gulf.
On the morning of 13 March 2009, Newcastle was one of seventeen warships involved in a ceremonial fleet entry and fleet review in Sydney Harbour, the largest collection of RAN ships since the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. The frigate was one of the thirteen ships involved in the ceremonial entry through Sydney Heads, and anchored in the harbour for the review.
In April 2010, Newcastle was presented with the RAN Gloucester Cup, recognising her as the most efficient ship during 2009. During July and August 2010, Newcastle was one of three RAN ships to participate in the RIMPAC 2010 multinational exercise.
In mid-2016 Newcastle conducted first-of-class flight trials with a ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle (UAV) as part of the development of Navy’s UAV capability.
In November that year the frigate sortied from Sydney to intercept a merchant ship off the north coast of New South Wales which was believed to be involved in drug smuggling.
Battle honours - Up to 1989, battle honours awarded to ships of the Royal Navy could also be inherited by RAN ships carrying the same name. However, upon the announcement that the final Adelaide-class frigate would be named for Newcastle, a decision was taken that this policy would end and in future RAN ships would receive their own battle honours, ensuring that Newcastle, the first ship in the RAN so named, would not inherit the honours of HMS Newcastle. She has earned two honours so far; East Timor 1999–2000 and Persian Gulf 2002–2003