JP 2048


Byline: Geoff Slocombe / Victoria

The two Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, CANBERRA and ADELAIDE will be the largest ships ever built for the Royal Australian Navy when they come into service in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Based on the Spanish ‘Juan Carlos’ class – in fact virtually identical to them – they will displace 28,000 tonnes. Their roles are to embark, transport and deploy an Army force of up to 1,160 soldiers each by helicopter and landing craft. They will also be an outstanding asset for carrying out or supporting humanitarian missions.

When interviewed by APDR, BAE Systems Australia Director of Maritime, Bill Saltzer, said:

“BAE Systems Australia is proud to be the prime contractor on this critical program for the Australian Government. BAE Systems has a strong reputation and proven capability for managing major naval shipbuilding projects and that capability is being aggressively applied on the LHD project. We are working in close cooperation with our Defence customer as a partner and we are fully committed to both the success of this program and the continuing development of naval shipbuilding and support capability within Australia.

“We have also developed great relationships with the other key members of the LHD team including Navantia, Saab, L3 and the many major equipment providers so that we have one team all pulling in the same direction. Without question, this is a challenging project from many perspectives:
• The largest naval vessel ever produced in Australia and the largest ever inducted into the Australian Defence Force
• Complex combat, communication and other leading edge technology from suppliers all around the globe
• A high degree of systems integration to support the many aspects of amphibious operations (sea, air and land)”

“Even with these challenges and complexities, we are confident that all of the parties involved are committed to supporting each other to achieve a successful result with regard to schedule, budget and most importantly, delivery of the effective mission capabilities needed by the Australian military.”

The Prime Contractor

As Prime Contractor BAE Systems has to manage all sub-contractors as well as the interface with both DMO and the ADF. They are charged with delivering the vessels to the contract specification in Australia.

In addition BAE Systems are responsible for systems engineering for bridge and upper deck design, superstructure fabrication at Williamstown (Melbourne) and Henderson (WA), ship consolidation at Williamstown, combat and other systems integration, then tests, trials and commissioning. At the same time they will provide Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) by delivering operator and maintainer manuals, crew training needs analysis, sparing analysis, then design and develop training for two crews.

BAE Systems will also seek a role in training delivery, provision of spares and loose items and to win a Through Life Support (TLS) contract for material and personnel.

At this stage, Bill Saltzer says:

“Any major naval shipbuilding project has an abundance of schedule risks that must be continuously managed and the LHD project is no exception, especially considering its size and the many mission systems that are involved. There are critical paths running in different elements of the project that have to be managed simultaneously, both in the platform and in the mission systems. BAE Systems Australia has world class capability in this field, a very capable Government customer with whom we work in close cooperation and many very capable subcontractors and suppliers. All of us are committed to ensuring those risks are effectively overcome. There is nothing currently experienced or foreseen that will stop us from achieving success.”

The schedule calls for LHD 1 to arrive at Williamstown in 4th quarter 2012, with handover and sea trials one year later, before delivery to the RAN in the 1st quarter 2014. LHD 2 is due to arrive 1st quarter 2014, to be ready for handover and sea trials 2nd quarter 2015, with delivery in the 3rd quarter 2015.

The Land Based Test Site (LBTS) was installed by July 2011. The major activity is risk mitigation of equipment integration and set to work prior to installation on ship with testing scheduled to finish by the end of 2012.

The LBTS is not a training facility, it is an integration facility in support of ship delivery, and there is no current intent for it to be used for training during the shipbuilding project. The Contractor Temporary Training Facility is being established in Sydney and BAE Systems and the DMO are working through the development and delivery of Training which is targeted to commence by mid 2013.

Navantia is making good progress

The LHD 1 hull was launched at the Navantia shipyard in Ferrol, Spain in February 2011 and, as noted above, is due to arrive at Williamstown Yard in the 4th quarter of this year. It is currently undergoing final fit out of the hospital, store rooms, accommodation and machinery spares.

LHD 2’s hull had its keel laid the day after LHD 1 was launched. Currently 67 of its 105 blocks are erected on the slipway.

In a separate contract Navantia is building 12 LCM-1Es, which are 110 tonne fast landing craft for the LHDs. These vessels are intended to deliver troops and equipment, including tanks, onshore during amphibious assaults. They will also be invaluable in humanitarian operations where no port access is available but suitable landing beaches can be found.

Combat Management Systems (CMS) from Saab

There are several parts to Saab’s contribution to the LHD shipbuilding program. In addition to the Design and Integration of the Combat Direction System, Saab is designing and supplying the CMS, integrating the data links in Australia along with their Data Link Processor subcontractor Northrop Grumman (USA), and supplying their Saab multi-role 3D Giraffe AMB air search radar.

Their CMS is originally a Swedish product selected by Australia for the ANZAC program many years ago and further developed by Saab locally for the highly successful ANZAC Anti-Ship Missile Defence programme – initially trialled on HMAS Perth and now to be fitted to the remainder of the Class. The majority of software and systems engineering work is undertaken in Australia except for some modules which had already been completed in Sweden on other programs. The hardware is mostly Swedish designed and manufactured.

The total package is being brought together in Australia using local expertise by Saab Systems, and they will take total responsibility for it as one of the principal sub-contractors to BAE Systems.

When asked to comment on the LHD project’s progress, a spokesman said that it is generally running according to plan and so the company is confident that the end will be reached on schedule. The Combat Direction System is integrated and successfully working in the LHD LBTS in preparation for higher level testing later this year, which is expect to finish on time. The level of Engineering Change Proposals raised in our scope of the project is at normal levels. According to the company, these are predominantly correction of minor requirements and design changes, and the management of baseline product artefacts as we progress through the development process. Some number are related to extensions to the scope of work such as the recently agreed training system and training material delivery contract change. Not many have arisen from test activities at this stage. Because the ship acquisition is MOTS procurement, the level of changes is relatively small when compared to a pure development project.

Richard Price, Saab Systems MD, told APDR:

“Saab is confident with the progress and performance of Saab’s deliverables to the LHD Project, which we expect to be achieved on schedule. This is consistent with our recent performance, such as for the ANZAC ASMD project”

L-3 Communications is providing the communication systems

APDR has previously examined the reasons why L-3 Communications were selected for this project and what capabilities they will provide to the LHDs – see ‘LHD Communications Suite’ APDR August 2010.

L-3’s LHD communication system being installed includes all external and internal communication subsystems, Maritime Tactical WAN, IT Networks, CCTV, Data Links, Entertainment and Training subsystems and the Broadcast & Alarm System.


A huge effort is being devoted to developing LHD training systems, initially in advance of the LHDs becoming available, but later to mitigate the need to send crew to sea just for this activity.

The main contracts for training signed with the Commonwealth of Australia are with KBR for virtual ship training; Kongsberg for the LHD Engineering System Trainer (LEST); L-3 Communications for communications operator and maintenance training; Sperry Marine for the integrated bridge management system; and Saab for combat systems operator and maintenance training.

The Saab spokesman said:

“Saab has been contracted to provide training equipment and course material for a purpose designed LHD training facility. We expect to deliver this training system and material according to schedule in mid-2013, with training delivery to be undertaken as separate scope after this time.”

The most spectacular training development is the employment of avatars – on-screen, virtual-reality images that represent crew members, including their personalities, traits and habits. KBR has assembled a consortium of Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems, Catalyst Interactive – a Canberra-based KBR company – and Crytek to undertake the development of a Virtual Ship Training and Information System (ViSTIS). The CryEngine® 3 – software developed for computer games – was used to build a three dimensional model of the LHD. Avatars of the trainee can be sent to any part of the ship for familiarisation tasks, or a whole group can be briefed on their roles in any operation and carry out rehearsals. Up to 100 personnel at any one time can use this virtual ship to participate in simulated exercises and emergency response scenarios from all over the country, without having to be in the same location.

Williamstown Yard preparations

According to Bill Saltzer there are two aspects to this task, yard production and facility readiness to receive the LHD 1 hull.

All four superstructure blocks are now built and are currently being outfitted at Williamstown. Two blocks have been blasted and painted and the other two blocks are in the blast and paint facility. All three masts are built in the BAE Systems yard in Henderson WA and continue to be outfitted prior to transportation to the Williamstown site for consolidation with the other superstructure build blocks.

The facility readiness program is on a tight schedule with four broad areas of work – Mooring and Access; Services to the Wharf; Heavy Lift preparations to allow the superstructure blocks to be lifted; and the Stand-By Crew Facility. All four areas of scope have been contracted and work is progressing to the planned schedule.

Moving the LHD 1 hull to Australia

The Navantia shipyard in northern Spain is on an estuary. While the LHD 1 hull was launched off the slipway into this estuary, then brought by tugs alongside a dock to complete the contracted work, this poses problems for transporting the hull to Williamstown.

The chosen solution is to use the semi-submersible heavy lift ship, MV Blue Marlin, to transport the hull on its deck. However, the 7.2 metre draft hull will be moved by tugs to the adjacent port of A Coruña, which has the necessary depth for the Blue Marlin to submerge beneath the hull.

Although the shortest route from Spain to Australia is through the Suez Canal, Navantia have chosen to come via the Cape of Good Hope to avoid canal scheduling uncertainties and also piracy threats along the east African coast. The transit is expected to start in the August/September timeframe with 2 days for float on, 45 days for transit, and 2 days for float off at Williamstown.

Is this going to be a model project?

It has been generally agreed that the ten ship ANZAC shipbuilding programme was the most successful in recent naval construction. Adapting an existing design, for the Meko 200 German frigate, took a lot of schedule risk and cost out of the ANZAC frigate project.

Now with the LHD project, similar MOTS considerations apply by choosing and adapting the Spanish Juan Carlos 1 design. However, the combat and communication systems specified by the Australian Government are different from those used on the Spanish vessel. As a result, the number of design changes on the platform systems are about as BAE Systems expected, while the number of changes driven by the different combat and communication systems are greater. Part of project management is a process for change management and BAE Systems have that process in place with their customer and subcontractors/suppliers.

In future years, the LHD programme may be viewed to be as successful as the ANZAC frigate programme.



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