In July an Australian & New Zealand Amphibious Ready Group made history with the largest amphibious assault by Australian forces in 70 years.
The event during Exercise Talisman Saber 2017, involved the embarkation of 600 personnel, mostly from Army’s 2nd Royal Australian Regiment aboard the three amphibious ships, HMA Ships Canberra and Choules and HMNZS Canterbury. The Group mounted an amphibious assault in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA), as part of a flanking activity in support of the US Marine Corp’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The multinational exercise also marked the first time an Australian Amphibious Task Group of that size had participated in a high-end warfighting exercise such as the biennial Talisman Saber (US spelling).
Navy’s other Landing Helicopter Dock ship, HMAS Adelaide, was unable to participate in the exercise, as it was undergoing a docking period in Sydney to remediate the well-publicised propulsion issues that have beset the two vessels. After some initial remediation work, Canberra was cleared to join the exercise and has since replaced Adelaide in the dry dock.
The Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious capability is made up of the two 27,000 tonne Canberra class LHDs, a version of the Spanish Navy’s Juan Carlos class vessel, and HMAS Choules, a 16,200 tonne ex-Royal Navy Bay class LSD.
The ships are capable of embarking personnel, vehicles and helicopters as part of a Joint Amphibious Task Force, which reports to the Amphibious Task Group Headquarters. The ATG Headquarters is a Joint, integrated unit made up of personnel from all three Services; it conducts amphibious operations under two commanders, Commander Amphibious Task Force (a Navy captain) and Commander Landing Force (an Army colonel).