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Canberra-class landing helicopter dock
LHD Canberra fitting out.JPG
Canberra fitting out at Williamstown, August 2013.
Class overview
Builders: Navantia, Ferrol, Spain and BAE Systems Australia, Victoria
Operators:  Royal Australian Navy
Preceded by: HMAS Tobruk, Kanimbla class
Built: 2009–2016 (planned)
In commission: 2014 onwards
Building: 2
Planned: 2
Completed: 0
General characteristics
Type: Landing Helicopter Dock
Displacement: 27,500 tonnes (30,300 short tons; 27,100 long tons) at full load
Length: 230.82 m (757.3 ft)
Beam: 32.0 m (105.0 ft)
Draft: 7.08 m (23.2 ft)
Propulsion: Combined Diesel and Gas
1 x GE LM2500 gas turbine
2 x MAN 16V32/40 diesel generators
2 x Siemens azimuth thrusters
Speed: Over 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) maximum
19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) full-load sustained
15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) economical
Range: 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
4 x LCM-1E
Capacity: Up to 110 vehicles
Heavy vehicle deck: 1,410 m2 (15,200 sq ft)
Light vehicle deck: 1,880 m2 (20,200 sq ft)
Troops: 1,046
Complement: 358 personnel; 293 RAN, 62 Australian Army, 3 RAAF
Sensors and
processing systems:
Giraffe AMB radar
Saab 9LV combat system [1]
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy
Nulka missile decoy
ITT Exelis ES-3701 ESM system [2]
Armament: 4 x Rafael Typhoon 25 mm remote weapons systems
6 x 12.7 mm machine guns
Aircraft carried: 8 helicopters (standard)
18 helicopters (maximum hangar space)
Aviation facilities: Flight deck with 13 degree ski-jump, 6 in-line deck landing spots

The Canberra class is a ship class of two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships being built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Planning to upgrade the navy's amphibious fleet began in 2000, based on Australian experiences leading the International Force for East Timor peacekeeping operation. In 2004, French company Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) and Spanish company Navantia were invited to tender proposals, with the companies offering the Mistral class amphibious assault ship and the "Buque de Proyección Estratégica" design (later commissioned as Juan Carlos I) respectively. The Spanish design was selected in 2007, with Navantia responsible for construction of the ships from the keel to the flight deck, and BAE Systems Australia handling the fabrication of the superstructure and fitting out.

Construction of the first ship, HMAS Canberra, commenced in late 2008, and the hull was launched in early 2011. Work on the second vessel, HMAS Adelaide, started in early 2010. The ships are expected to enter service between 2014 and 2016. They will be the largest vessels ever operated by the RAN, with a displacement of 27,500 tonnes (27,100 long tons; 30,300 short tons).

Planning and selection

Planning to replace the Kanimbla class landing platform amphibious ships Kanimbla and Manoora, and the heavy landing ship Tobruk began as early as 2000, with the intention announced in the Defence 2000: Our Future Defence Force white paper.[3] The importance of amphibious warfare had been demonstrated during Australia's leadership of the International Force for East Timor peacekeeping operation: the difficulty in supporting an expeditionary force to one of Australia's nearest neighbours demonstrated the need for an improved amphibious sealift capability.[4][5] In November 2003, the Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, released a Defence Capability Review, which stated that two ships of at least 20,000 tonnes (20,000 long tons; 22,000 short tons) displacement and capable of launching five to six helicopters simultaneously were being sought.[3] The acquisition was included under the procurement designation Project JP2048: although Phase 1 of JP2048 looked at a new type of landing craft for the Kanimbla class (the LCM2000), Phases 2 and 4 were to identify, then acquire the new amphibious warfare ships, and Phase 3 covered the design and construction of compatible landing craft (12 LCM-1E, ordered on 27 September 2011).[4][6] The ships were originally to replace one of the Kanimbla class ships and Tobruk, with the other Kanimbla class ship later replaced by a strategic sealift ship.[4]

In January 2006, the Australian government announced the names for the planned ships: Canberra and Adelaide.[7] After the announcement, suggestions for alternate names were expressed in several venues. The Navy League of Australia proposed that Adelaide should instead be named Australia; using the name of the nation and its capital for the RAN's two most powerful ships, as had been the case with the navy's two World War II-era County class cruisers, while freeing the name up for the League's proposed fourth Hobart class destroyer.[8] Alternately, a member of the Australian Naval Institute opined that the ships should be named Gallipoli and Guadalcanal; the first reflecting the landings at Gallipoli, one of the first amphibious operations of the modern era, the second recognising the amphibious campaign to recapture Guadalcanal and the efforts of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps in aiding Australia during World War II.[9]

Comparative statistics of proposed designs
Kanimbla class included as frame of reference[10]
DCN Navantia Kanimbla
Displacement (tonne) 24,000 27,000 8,500
Range (nmi) 11,000 9,000 14,000
Personnel 177 240 210
Troops 1,000 1,100 450
Vehicles (m2) 1,000 2,000 700
Helicopters 16 11 4
Landing spots 6 6 2/3
Landing craft 4 LCM 4 LCM 2 LCM-8

A Request For Information and invitation for tenders was sent to two European shipbuilders in February 2004; French company Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) and Spanish company Navantia.[11] Shipbuilders from the United States were not included, as American amphibious warfare ships were too large for Australian requirements, and were either too personnel-intensive, or could not operate the number of helicopters required.[12] DCN responded with an enlarged version of the Mistral class amphibious assault ship; 2,000 tonnes (2,000 long tons; 2,200 short tons) greater displacement than the 22,000-tonne (22,000-long-ton; 24,000-short-ton) vessels active with the French Navy.[13] A design being built by Navantia for the Spanish Navy, the "Buque de Proyección Estratégica" (Strategic Projection Ship, later commissioned as Juan Carlos I) was offered by the Spanish, partnering with Australian company Tenix Defence.[13] Although 4,000 tonnes (3,900 long tons; 4,400 short tons) larger and with an increased troop, vehicle, and helicopter carrying capability compared to the Mistrals, the Spanish ship was still under construction at the time of the offer, and was originally not due to enter service until late 2008.[13] On 20 June 2007, Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson announced that the A$3 billion contract to build the Canberra class had been awarded to Navantia and Tenix.[14][15] Although an unproven design, the Spanish offer was closer to the RAN's requested requirements, and there were benefits from ordering the Canberras and the new Hobart class air warfare destroyers from the same company.[13]

Design and capabilities

The Canberra class vessels are 230.82 metres (757.3 ft) long overall, with a maximum beam of 32 metres (105 ft), and a maximum draught of 7.08 metres (23.2 ft).[16] Keeping the maximum draught low was an important factor during design, allowing the ships to operate in littoral waters and small harbours.[16] At full load, each ship will displace 27,500 tonnes (30,300 short tons; 27,100 long tons), making them the largest vessels to serve in the RAN.[16] The Canberras have the same physical dimensions as Juan Carlos I, but differ in the design of the island superstructure and the internal layout, in order to meet Australian conditions and requirements.[5] Unlike the Spanish vessel, the Australian ships are built to meet Lloyd's Naval Rules.[5]

Propulsion is provided by two Siemens 11-megawatt (15,000 hp) azimuth thrusters, each with an onboard electric motor, driving two 4.5-metre (15 ft) diameter propellers.[16][17] The electricity is provided by a Combined diesel and gas system, with a single General Electric LM2500 turbine producing 19,160 kilowatts (25,690 hp), supported by two MAN 16V32/40 diesel generators providing 7,448 kilowatts (9,988 hp).[16] The main thrusters are supplemented by two 1,500 kilowatts (2,000 hp) bow thrusters, and a 1,350-kilowatt (1,810 hp) Progener-Mitsubishi S16MPTA diesel generator is fitted as an emergency backup.[16] The vessels will have a maximum speed of over 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), a maximum sustainable full-load speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph), and an economical cruising speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), with a corresponding range of 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi).[16] The LHDs can maintain full directional control while reversing at up to 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph).[16]

Each ship is fitted with a Saab 9LV Mark 4 combat management system.[5] The sensor suite includes a Sea Giraffe 3D surveillance radar, and a Vampir NG infrared search and track system.[5] For self-defence, the LHDs will be fitted with four Rafael Typhoon 25 mm remote weapons systems (one in each corner of the flight deck),[18] six 12.7 mm machine guns, an AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy, and a Nulka missile decoy.[16] Defence against aircraft and larger targets is to be provided by escort vessels and air support from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).[18] The ships' companies will consist of 358 personnel; 293 RAN, 62 Australian Army, and 3 RAAF.[19]

The LHDs will transport 1,046 soldiers and their equipment.[19] They are to be capable deploying a reinforced company of up to 220 soldiers at a time by airlift.[5] In mid-2010, the intention was to retrain 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment for the commando and amphibious warfare roles, but under Plan Bersheeba, released in December 2012, 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment was the unit marked to become the core of the Australian marine force.[5][20] Two vehicle decks (one for light vehicles, the other for heavy vehicles and tanks) have areas of 1,880 square metres (20,200 sq ft) and 1,410 square metres (15,200 sq ft) respectively, and between them can accommodate up to 110 vehicles.[16] Each ship has a 69.3-by-16.8-metre (227 by 55 ft) well deck.[16] This can house up to four LCM-1E landing craft, which can be launched and recovered in conditions up to Sea State 4.[17] The well deck also has room for four RHIBs (although these will not be carried as standard), and can be used by other nations' landing craft and amphibious vehicles.[16]

Australian Army S-70 Black Hawk helicopters operating from USS Boxer (LHD-4), a Wasp class landing helicopter dock ship during Exercise Talisman Saber 2005

The flight deck is 202.3 by 32 metres (664 by 105 ft) and sits at a height of 27.5 metres (90 ft),[Clarification needed] with six spots for helicopters up to MRH-90 size to operate simultaneously.[16] Alternately, helicopters up to Chinook size can take off or land simultaneously on four spots on the flight deck.[16] Flight operations can be conducted up to Sea State 5.[18] The standard air group aboard these ships will be a mix of MRH-90 transport helicopters and S-70B Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters.[21] The 990 square metres (10,700 sq ft) hangar deck can accommodate eight medium-size helicopters; with room for another ten if the light vehicle deck is used for additional helicopter space.[16] Two aircraft lifts (one large one centre-aft, and a smaller one to starboard and in front of the island superstructure) connect the flight deck to the hangar deck.[16] The ski-jump ramp of Juan Carlos I has been retained for the RAN ships.[19] Because of this, there have been multiple recommendations that the Canberras be used for carrier-like flight operations (primarily with a flight group of F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft).[19][22][23][24] Although cross-decking with other nations' aircraft may occur, the RAN maintains that embarking Australian-operated, fixed-wing aircraft is not under consideration.[19][22][24]


Navantia is contracted to construct the hulls from 104 'blocks' or 'modules', which are fabricated individually at Navantia's facilities in Ferrol and Fene, then combined on the slipway at the Ferrol shipyard.[5][15][25] The Canberras will be built up to the flight deck, launched, then transported by heavy lift ship to Williamstown, Victoria, where the installation of the island superstructure and the internal fitout of the hull is to be completed by BAE Systems Australia (which acquired Tenix in mid-2008).[5][13]

Construction of Canberra began in September 2008, when the first steel was cut.[15] The first three blocks were laid down on 23 September 2010.[15] She was launched on 17 February 2011.[26][27] The hull was loaded onto the heavy lift ship MV Blue Marlin on 4 August 2012, with Blue Marlin departing Ferrol for Williamstown on 17 August, and arriving in Port Phillip on 17 October.[28][29][30] Canberra is expected to commission into the RAN in January 2014.[19]

The hull of Adelaide being loaded onto Blue Marlin

Work on Adelaide began during February 2010, when the first steel was cut.[5] The first hull blocks were laid down on 18 February 2011, and Adelaide was launched on 4 July 2012.[25][31] Initially, the ship was due to reach Australia in early 2013 to begin final fitout,[19][25] but this did not occur.[Clarification needed] The hull was loaded onto Blue Marlin on 10 December 2013 in Vigo Bay.[32] Entry into RAN service was originally planned for mid-2015, but as of July 2011, this had been pushed back to sometime in 2016.[5][25]

Although Canberra was identified as "LHD01" and Adelaide as "LHD02" during construction, the ships will be commissioned with the pennant numbers "LHD 02" and "LHD 01" respectively.[33] The reversal of the numbers will cause the new ships' pennants to correspond to the Adelaide class frigates with the same names.[34]

The first batch of four LCM-1E craft will be delivered to the RAN in March 2014.[19]

The early decommissioning of the two Kanimbla class vessels in 2011, several years before Canberra class ships would enter service, led to the acquisition of the landing ship dock HMAS Choules and the support vessel ADV Ocean Shield.[35][36] Once the two LHDs enter full operational service, Ocean Shield will be transferred to the Customs Marine Unit of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.[37][38]


  1. "Saab wins order worth 150 million AUD for Australian Navy". Saab. 21 November 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  2. "ITT Exelis to provide electronic support systems to Australian ANZAC and LHD ships". ITT Exelis. 28 March 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Borgu, Capability of First Resort?, p. 1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Borgu, Capability of First Resort?, p. 2
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Fish, Amphibious assault ships
  6. Office of Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Defence, Projects of concern - Update
  7. "Next generation of naval ships to reflect a rich history of service". Department of Defence (Australia). 20 January 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2011. 
  8. Time to bring back the Pride, in The Navy, p. 2
  9. Garai, Lets give the LHDs some names with meaning, pp. 33–4
  10. Borgu, '"Capability of First Resort?, p. 6
  11. Borgu, Capability of First Resort?, pp. 5–6
  12. Borgu, Capability of First Resort?, p. 5
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Brown, Spanish designs are Australia's choice for warship programmes
  14. Amphibious Ships, in Semaphore, p. 1
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Fish, First Australian LHD takes shape
  16. 16.00 16.01 16.02 16.03 16.04 16.05 16.06 16.07 16.08 16.09 16.10 16.11 16.12 16.13 16.14 16.15 Royal Australian Navy, Amphibious Assault Ship (LHD)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Amphibious Ships, in Semaphore, p. 2
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Defense Industry Daily, Australia's Canberra class LHDs
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 Kerr, Amphibious Ambitions
  20. McLaughlin & Hollins, Bersheeba, pp. 44-45
  21. Gillis, Interview. Landing Helicopter Dock Project – Canberra Class, pp. 28–9
  22. 22.0 22.1 Borgu, Capability of First Resort?, p. 11
  23. Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade, Australia's Maritime Strategy, p. 95
  24. 24.0 24.1 Gillis, Interview. Landing Helicopter Dock Project – Canberra Class, p. 29
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Fish, Australia awaits new LHDs for amphibious uplift
  26. Department of Defence, LHD launch paves the way for amphibious transformation
  27. Cavas, Australia's Largest Ship Launched
  28. Navantia efectúa con éxito el ´encaje´ del ´Canberra´, in Laopinióncoruña
  29. El "Blue Marlin", abandonando el puerto exterior de A Coruña, in La voz de Galicia
  30. Huge Navy ship hull arrives in Victoria, in ABC News
  31. Royal Australian Navy, Launch of second Amphibious Ship Landing Helicopter Dock
  32. Otero, A. (11 December 2013). "Perfecto embarque de un coloso del mar" (in Spanish). Faro de Vigo. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  33. On the way to Australia, in Navy News
  34. Fish, Steel cut for second Australian LHD
  35. "HMAS Choules commissioned in honour of veteran". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  36. "Ocean Shield the Navy's newest humanitarian and disaster relief vessel". Offices of the Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel. 3 June 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  37. Offices of the Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel, Ocean Shield the Navy's newest humanitarian and disaster relief vessel
  38. Ellery, Defence buys boat bound for Customs


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