LHD in service – expanding amphibious capability
HMAS Canberra, the first of the Royal Australian Navy’s 27,800 tonne Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships has achieved significant operational milestones as ship’s crews work up toward Initial Operational Capability (IOC). The graduated operational test and trials program, conducted off Cowley Beach near Townsville from August, included integration of the ship’s four landing craft and no fewer than five ADF MRH 90 battlefield helicopters.
In addition, the ship operated with 800 embarked personnel, primarily from the Navy’s Amphibious Task Group and the Army’s 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), in addition to her own complement of around 400 personnel.
The most recent milestone meant that Canberra had successfully completed the required training and evaluation to allow it to undertake what Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett referred to as ‘specific Government directed operations.’
“Canberra now has another two months of more complex joint collective training and exercises to integrate other elements of the Australian Defence Force amphibious capability,” VADM Barrett said on August 31.
“Certification of the Amphibious Ready Element (ARE) later this year is the final tick to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) support. I will then be able to declare the Initial Operational Capability for the Canberra class amphibious ships.”
In a further milestone during the period, the second vessel, to become HMAS Adelaide after it commissions towards the end of the year, completed its final sea trials at the end of August.
NUSHIP Adelaide is now being prepared for delivery to the Navy.
Commissioned at the end of November last year, HMAS Canberra has conducted a series of trials and training exercises, as the Australian Defence Force builds its amphibious capability.
It is important to bear in mind that the LHDs are not just Navy warships but a capability which in many ways points to the future of joint and combined operations. Each ship’s company has Army and (to a lesser degree) Air Force personnel permanently assigned, and the trials involved a complex series of capabilities which have to be ready in their own right to integrate with the broader LHD schedule.
“It’s a fantastic result when you think that, here we are nine months later and Canberra is operating with a significant number of aircraft embarked; her landing craft embarked, about 1000 embarked Army personnel plus her normal complement, so it’s a very pleasing reflection of her progress,” commented Commodore Lee Goddard, Commander Surface Forces.
“The collective training programme began in August, primarily around 2RAR as the landing force, and supporting combat and aviation elements. The two months of exercises she will be involved in will test and certify the amphibious force’s ability to undertake non-combatant evacuation operations and provide support to HADR events if and when required.”
CDRE Goddard said that the activities are designed to ensure the systems were fit for purpose and that the crew could safely operate the ship.
“As the Commander of that capability I can certainly confirm that the systems are fit for purpose,” he said.