Royal Australian Navy’s Canberra-class Amphibious Assault Ship

The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) fleet of two Canberra-class amphibious assault ships has achieved final operational capability.

On 12 November 2019, Australia’s Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds announced that the canberra-class is now ready to be deployed on amphibious operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and amphibious warfare missions.

The Canberra-class ships, HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide , each has an overall length of 230 m and displace about 27,500 tonnes at full load. The Royal Australian Navy is now one of the world’s premier amphibious forces with both of the Fleet’s Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Docks and Landing Craft successfully achieving Final Operational Capability.  The HMAS Canberra-class is designed by Spanish Company Navantia and based on the Spanish Navy’s “Buque de Proyección Estratégica” (Strategic Projection Ship, later commissioned as Juan Carlos I). Australian company Tenix Defence partnered with Navantia to build the ship in Australia.

The entire amphibious capability acquired under Joint Project 2048, including the Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) HMAS Adelaide , HMAS Canberra, and the twelve LHD Landing Craft .

Sub Lieutenant Erika Peters and Able Seaman Communications and Information Systems sailor Brandon Davies on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra alongside Fleet Base East, Sydney, NSW.
Sub Lieutenant Erika Peters and Able Seaman Communications and Information Systems sailor Brandon Davies on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra alongside Fleet Base East, Sydney, NSW.

“It is a unique experience to be part of one of only two Landing Helicopter Docks, especially due to the size of the ship and its deployable capabilities,”

Sub Lieutenant Erika Peters

As the centrepiece of Australia’s amphibious force, the Canberra Class have the ability to complete operations spanning from amphibious warfare through to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

At 230 metres long and with a speed in excess of 20 knots, the 27,500 tonne LHDs are highly reliable and effective ships with capabilities which include six helicopter positions and four integral ship-to-shore connectors, which are able to carry all of Army’s infantry vehicles, including the M1A1 main battle tank.

The LHDs will be able to transport 1,046 soldiers and their equipment, and can carry 1,600 in overload conditions. The embarked force is called the Amphibious Ready Element Landing Force (ARE-LE) based on an infantry company of up to 220 special forces soldiers. The ships’ companies consist of 358 personnel; 293 Royal Australian Navy sailors, 62 Australian Army, and 3 Royal Australian Air Force personnel.

The Caberra-class is fitted with Saab 9LV Mark 4 combat management system, Saab  Sea Giraffe 3D gallium-nitrate based surveillance radar and a Vampir NG infrared search and track system. For self-defence, the LHDs are fitted with four Rafael Typhoon 25 mm remote weapons systems (one in each corner of the flight deck), six 12.7 mm machine guns, an AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy, and a Nulka missile decoy and three Phalanx CIWS.

The standard air group aboard these ships will be a mix of MRH-90 transport helicopters, Chinook and S-70B Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters. Former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott instructed defense department to plan for acquisition of Lockheed Martin F-35B for Royal Navy but that the proposal was never materialized due to cost concerns.

This year for the first time, both ships participated in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE. Canberra has now returned to her homeport at Garden Island, while Adelaide is deployed to the Southwest Pacific.

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