The first of Australia’s two planned Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) assault ships is due to begin sea trials within a few weeks, as prime contractor BAE Systems prepares to take delivery of the hull of the second unit.
The second hull has arrived at Melbourne from the Ferrol shipyard of its Spanish builder, Navantia. BAE says the first ship, to become HMAS Canberra, will be delivered to the navy this year, suggesting no program slippage since 2012, when the same target was stated. The second ship, to be called Adelaide,is still due to be operational in the second quarter of 2016.
“At this stage the first LHD will depart Williamstown for a series of sea trials during the next few weeks and we expect acceptance by the navy later this year,” says Bill Salzer, the head of BAE’s maritime business in Australia. The second hull, which is internally complete, should be docked at BAE’s Williamstown yard at Melbourne within a week. Then BAE will fit the locally built island superstructure and perform remaining work to make the ship ready for service.
Canberra and Adelaide will each displace 27,500 metric tons when fully loaded, making them the largest fighting ships to be commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy. An LHD is a landing ship with full helicopter facilities and a dock for landing craft. The Australian ships are near duplicates of the Juan Carlos I, which Navantia built for the Spanish navy. The main change is in the electronic fit, which BAE is integrating from a selection of equipment that is in service elsewhere. Suppliers include L-3 and Saab.
Each Australian LHD has a nearly full-length flight deck, a helicopter hangar that also can accept light ground vehicles and cargo, a garage for heavy vehicles and a 69.3-meter (227-ft.) dock for four LCM 1E landing craft. U.S. LCAC air-cushion landing craft will also fit. The ships have ski-jump bows but there is no plan to equip them with fixed-wing aircraft. They will operate mainly with Australian army helicopters.
The heavy-lift ship MV Blue Marlin, which carried the damaged USS Cole home from Yemen in 2000 and hauled the sea-based X-band Radar to Alaska in 2005-06, transported both LHD hulls from Spain to Australia.