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First LHD hull arrives in Australia

17 October 2012
Mr Pup Elliott

The Navy's first Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) has arrived at its Australian home for the next 18 months in Victoria.

MV Blue Marlin arrives in Port Phillip Bay with the hull of the future HMAS Canberra.

The LHDs are the largest ships ever built for the Royal Australian Navy and testimony to this was the fact that it was visible on the horizon almost 2 hours before entering the port. It is interesting to note that the hull that is to be designated as HMAS Canberra sailed past its namesake which is now a artificial reef near the entrance to The Rip at Ocean grove.

Over a hundred interested locals braved a cold sea breeze between Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff to welcome its arrival. Everyone from ex navy members, enthusiasts as well as school children were gathered on the foreshore to watch a moment in history sail pass. Local and retired harbour pilot "Taff" Henry said "I have seen hundreds of ships enter the bay over the years but this is an inspiring sight."

The Minister for Defence Materiel The Hon. Jason Clare as well as Mr Bill Saltzer, the Director of Maritime for BAE Systems, were also on hand at the infamous "Rip" to welcome the ship into Port Philip Bay. Minister Clare stated that "The ship would be extremely capable and was designed deploy a lot of troops of a long distance in a very short period of time."

The LHD01 hull has been transported from Spain to Australia by a Heavy Lift Ship, Blue Marlin. The trip has taken around eight weeks.

The Dockwise owned Heavy Lift Ship, MV Blue Marlin has travelled around 18,520 km to deliver the first LHD.

Senior Project Manager for Dockwise, Frank Berrens, said that he was proud the company could assist in the delivery and provide the hull to BAE Systems ready to commence work on the next phase.

The LHD will be floated off the Blue Marlin over the next two weeks and then towed into the BAE facility at Williamstown.

The Canberra Class LHDs are bigger than Australia's last aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (II). When completed they will be more than 230 metres long, 27.5 metres high and weigh around 27,500 tonnes.

Each ship can carry a combined armed battlegroup of more than 1100 personnel, 100 armoured vehicles and 12 helicopters and features a 40-bed hospital.

The LHD is expected to be introduced into Royal Australian Navy service in 2014 and will be jointly crewed by members of the Navy, Army and Air Force.

Operational concepts, individual training and facilities issues are examples of the work being carried out by the Joint Amphibious Capability Implementation Team.

 Amphibious Assault Ship (LHD)

The Canberra Class LHD (Amphibious Assault Ship also known as a Landing Helicopter Dock) project will provide the Australian Defence Force with one of the most capable and sophisticated air-land-sea amphibious deployment systems in the world.

These 27,000 tonne ships will be able to land a force of over 2,000 personnel by helicopter and water craft, along with all their weapons, ammunition, vehicles and stores.

The Canberra Class Amphibious Assault Ship concept.


The largest ships ever built for the Royal Australian Navy, the LHDs are being built as a collaboration between Navantia and BAE Systems - Maritime.

The construction is being done using the modular approach whereby the ship is divided into modules, which are built and fitted out as discrete units, before being welded together to form the completed ship. This allows the ship to be built at a number of different sites across the shipyard before being brought together for final joining.

Construction of the hull to the level of the flight deck, including the majority of fitting out will be undertaken at Navantia's Ferrol-Fene shipyard in north-west Spain. The hull will then be shipped to BAES' Williamstown shipyard in Victoria for the installation of the island structure. The island modules will be constructed at a number of sites around Australian before being moved to Williamstown for final installation on the flight deck.

The ship's roles are to:

  • embark, transport and deploy an embarked force (Army in the case of the ADF but could equally be an allied Army or Marines), along with their equipment and aviation units, and
  • carry out/support humanitarian missions.

Therefore the requirement is for a multipurpose ship able to operate in both these roles, but not necessarily simultaneously, owing to the differing configuration requirements.

The first LHD, named HMAS Canberra, is due to be commissioned in January 2014 and the second ship, HMAS Adelaide, is planned to commission in June 2015.

The ship is a conventional steel mono hull design with the superstructure located on the starboard side of the flight deck. There are four main decks: the Well Dock and Heavy Vehicle Deck for heavy vehicles and/or cargo; Main Accommodation Deck, including the Primary Casualty Reception Facility (PCRF); Hangar and Light Vehicle Deck for light weight vehicles and cargo; and the Flight Deck.

The LHD has been designed with the shallowest possible draft to allow her to operate in secondary ports and harbours as well as manoeuvre tactically in the shallow waters common in the littoral regions. Maximum speed is in excess of 20kn with a range of 6,000nm, a sustained maximum speed of 19kn under full-load conditions and an economic cruising speed of 15kn with a range of 9,000nm. She can also reverse with full directional control at up to 8kn.

The LHD has a stern ramp/door that provides access to the well dock for landing craft and vehicles along with a fixed ramp (steel beach) between the well dock and the heavy vehicle/cargo deck (1410m2). Additionally two lateral ramp doors are located on the starboard side and provide wharf access to the heavy vehicle/cargo deck for vehicles up to 65T. Vehicular access between the heavy and light vehicle decks is achieved via a fixed ramp located on the port side.

The well dock is 69.3m long and 16.8m wide (1165m2) and the LHD will normally carry four LCM 1E. An additional four RHIBs can be carried behind the LCM 1Es, however this will be mission dependant rather than a normal load out. The well dock has been designed to handle water craft of allied nations, including LCUs, amphibious vehicles and LCACs.

The main accommodation deck is located above the well dock and heavy vehicle/cargo deck and includes crew accommodation, mess decks, medical spaces, galley facilities, office spaces, and recreation rooms. Accommodation is provided for 1400 personnel; approximately 400 ship's company including the watercraft and flight deck crews and 1000 embarked force personnel including the PCRF, embarked flight, HQ staff and landing force. The LHD will be jointly crewed with personnel from Navy, Army and the Air Force forming the ship's company.

The LHD's flight deck is 202.3m long and 32m wide (4750m2), allowing the ship to operate a range of ADF rotary wing aircraft including:

  • MRH90 helicopter
  • CH-47 Chinook helicopter
  • Blackhawk helicopter
  • S-70B-2 Seahawk
  • Armed Reconnaisance Helicopter
  • Romeo Seahawk

The flight deck has been configured with six spots on the port side for medium sized aircraft such as the NRH 90 or Blackhawk, which allows for simultaneous take off and landing operations; alternatively it can support simultaneous take off and landing operations of four CH-47 Chinooks.

There are two aircraft elevators - one aft of the flight deck and one fwd of the island on the stbd side - that can accommodate medium sized helicopters, with the after one able to accommodate larger helicopters such as CH 47. Both aircraft elevators service the hangar and light vehicle/cargo deck and the fwd elevator is dual roled for stores and personnel.

Between the flight deck and the accommodation deck is a contiguous hangar and light vehicle deck; the hanger (990m2) occupying the after section of the deck whilst the light vehicle deck (1880m2) is located on the forward section of the deck. The hanger can accommodate up to 8 medium sized helicopters with 18 medium sized helicopters able to be accommodated if the light vehicle deck is also used.

There is a cargo lift that can be used to transfer 20-foot ISO containers and vehicles up to a weight of 16 tonnes between the heavy and light vehicle decks. There are also lifts for ammunition, provisions and casualties. Up to 110 vehicles, depending on the size and configuration, can be loaded across the two vehicles decks

The Command and Control (C2) and Combat Systems will consist of:

  • Combat Management System
  • Extensive ICT infrastructure to support the ADF's Command Support Systems and provide C2 capability for the embarked force
  • 3D Air Search Radar
  • Helicopter Control and Surface Radar
  • Navigation Radar
  • IFF capability, including Mode S
  • ESM/ECM Suite
  • Integrated communications system (internal and external), including a Message Handling System, Link 11 and 16, civil and military Satellite Communications
  • Electro Optical and IR surveillance systems
  • Integrated Navigation System, including an integrated bridge, navigation sensors, AIS and WECDIS.

The LHD will be fitted with a number of defensive systems including:

  • Anti-Torpedo Towed Defense System (Nixie)
  • Four 20 mm automated guns
  • 6 x 12.7 mm machine guns
  • Active missile decoy system - Nulka (weight and space reserve)

Major Statistics

  • Length Overall 230.82m
  • Moulded Beam 32.00m
  • Beam Waterline 29.50m
  • Flight Deck height 27.50m
  • Draft at Full Load Displacement 7.08m
  • Full Load Displacement 27,500 tonnes

The LHD utilises an electric drive system similar to that used by major cruise companies such as Cunard. The propulsion/generating plant includes the following main elements:

  • One gas turbine (LM 2500) turbo generator of 19,160kW
  • Two MAN 16V32/40 diesel generators of 7,448 kW each
  • Two Siemens azimuth POD units of 11.0 MW each fitted with two propellers of approx 4.5m diameter
  • Two bow thrusters of 1,500kW each
  • One Progener-Mitsubishi S16MPTA emergency diesel generator of 1,350kW

The Spanish Navy's Juan Carlos I Amphibious Assault Ship on which the RAN's LHD is based. Image courtesy of Pietje96.

Source:, taken 24 October 2012

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