Nov 29, 2014
RAN commissions first-of-class Canberra
Based on the design of the Spanish Navy's aircraft carrier Juan Carlos , the 231 m Canberra can embark, transport, and deploy more than 1,000 troops and their equipment from alongside or by helicopter and landing craft.
Canberra , the RAN's largest-ever ship, will be joined in 2016 by sister ship Adelaide . The hulls of both ships were constructed by Navantia at its Ferrol facility in northwest Spain and subsequently transported by heavy-lift ship to BAE Systems in Melbourne for addition of the superstructure, fitting out, and systems integration.
Design changes for the RAN included upgrades to air conditioning, Australian explosives standards in the magazines, enhanced firefighting and medical facilities, and four Typhoon remote-controlled 25 mm weapons systems at each corner of the hull for close-in defence. The Australian-developed Nulka hovering anti-missile decoy will be fitted at a later date.
The flight deck is configured for simultaneous operation of four medium-sized helicopters, such as the NHIndustries NH90 (MRH90 in Australian service) or the Sikorsky S70A-9 Black Hawk, or four Boeing CH-47D/F Chinooks. Up to eight medium helicopters can be accommodated in the hangar, and up to 18 can be carried if the light vehicle deck is also utilised.
The four Navantia-built LCM-1E watercraft carried by each LHD can transport a maximum load of 54 tonnes via the ship's well deck.
The ship will then spend four weeks in the Coral Sea on hot weather trials, followed by four weeks off Tasmania for the cold weather equivalent. Amphibious development trials will subsequently take place off Townsville, Queensland.
These are expected to involve the so-called Amphibious Ready Element, a 350-strong infantry company with supporting elements and enablers that will be on 48 hours' notice to deploy.
An Amphibious Ready Group - a battalion-based combat team with enablers that will involve about 2,000 troops and require both LHDs to transport - is scheduled to be operational by 2017.
Initial operational capability (IOC) for Canberra is expected to be reached in 2016, enabling the ship to participate in that year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.
RAN Canberra retain the ski-jump ramp of the Juan Carlos design, and earlier this year Prime Minister ordered an assessment of the benefits of the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and modifying the LHDs to operate them.
Although the assessment is intended to help inform the Defence White Paper and Force Structure Review expected in mid-2015, the general reaction from senior defence sources has been that additional capability would not be justified by the time, cost, and risk involved.