First harbour trial completed for Australian helicopter docking vessel
Australia’s newest landing helicopter dock ship, the Canberra, successfully completed a vehicle loading trial at Williamstown, near Melbourne in the southern state of Victoria.
The ship moved from its BAE berth, where BAE is integrating the superstructure, hull, combat systems and communications systems, across the bay to Webb Dock, Navy Daily, the navy’s official newspaper, reported.
Army vehicles, including a tank, armored personnel carrier and light vehicles, were driven onto the ship and maneuvered within the vehicle decks.
The trial was a “cold move” operation, where the ship was moved across the bay by tugs and not under its own propulsion.
The trials were conducted on schedule and involved extensive planning, preparation and coordination between the army, navy, the procurement agency Defense Materiel Organization and BAE Systems, Navy Daily said.
Navantia built the hulls for the 755-foot LHD vessels Canberra and Adelaide under a joint project with BAE Systems Australia. About 80 percent of hull construction for both LHD ships was done at the Fene-Ferrol shipyard in Spain.
Navantia also is involved in designing three ships for Australia’s Hobart-class air warship destroyer project.
Each 27,000-ton LHD can carry a combined armed battle group of more than 1,000 personnel, 100 armored vehicles and 12 helicopters.
The LHD ships also will be used to support humanitarian missions.
The Canberra will start sea acceptance tests yet this year, Navy Daily said.
Capt. Jonathan Sadleir, commanding officer of the Canberra, said the tempo of trials is increasing as the project moves closer to when the navy receives the vessel for service next year.
“We have over 300 ship’s company who have joined the ship and are undertaking a variety of training and preparedness activities ready to embark and operate the ship next year,” said Sadleir, who has command of the vessel for three years.
About 200 guests, including Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes Eulate, joined 350 BAE shipyard workers in February for the official naming ceremony.
The Defense Ministry also officially opened an $85 million revamp of the Quayside Terminal and Wharf 10 at the Port of Townsville facility last month to accommodate the Canberra-class ships.
“The upgrade will enhance the capability to support the navy’s landing helicopter dock [ships] and the capacity to provide access for other visiting Royal Australian Navy and foreign warships,” Defense Minister David Johnston said.
The Townsville upgrade was done also with an eye to attracting the growing cruise ship market, Johnston said.
Townsville, with a population of nearly 200,000 on the northeast coast of Queensland and near the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, is home to the Australian army’s Amphibious Readiness Element.
Townsville also was home to more than 50,000 U.S. and Australian troops and air crew when the city became the launching point for battles in the southwest Pacific during World War II.
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