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Meet the future Australian aircraft carrier

UPDATED 28 November 2014 | Officially commissioned on 28 November 2014, it is the largest ship ever built for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and it is sporting an interesting ski-jump. Will we see Harriers or F-35B Lightning IIs operate from the brand new HMAS Canberra?

Likely, but not flying in Royal Australian Navy (RAN) or Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) service … for the time being. The official roles of the new ADF Landing Helicopter Dock ships include “to embark, transport and deploy a military force. In case of the ADF it will be the Army, but it could equally be an allied Army or Marines Corps”.

Hello US Marines and British Royal Navy/Royal Marines F-35s! The short take-off and vertical landing fighter jets ordered by the two services would make excellent fighter coverage for any naval combat force with the HMAS Canberra or its future sister ship HMAS Adelaide as its centrepiece. Or it might host other navy’s Harrier jump jets, like the EAV-8B Matador IIs of 9a Escuadrilla Aeronaves that can deploy on the SPS L61 Juan Carlos I. The Australian Canberra-class LHDs are based on this Spanish design.

But things are looking good for a RAAF/RAN F-35 force on board the HMAS Canberra. “The Government is considering buying the “B” model of the F-35, the variant to operate from aircraft carriers”, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston more or less told the newspaper The Weekend West in the beginning of May 2014. Other sources confirmed the stealthy Lightning II has been considered for the two new LHDs from the very first day the Australian government ordered the vessels.

The first of two new Landing Helicopter Dock ships being built for the Australian Defence Force, entered Sydney Harbour for the first time on 13 March 2014 as part of her first contractor trials and testing program at sea. Canberra departed the BAE Systems dockyard at Williamstown on 3 March and conducted a series of tests to prove systems and equipment prior to the Contractor delivery of the ship to Defence. The trials tested a variety of systems in different conditions. The ship is scheduled to undertake a commercial docking in the Dry Dock in Sydney, where the size and scale of the LHD platform will be readily apparent. Canberra is scheduled to receive a hull clean in the dock and final paint before proceeding to sea and returning to Williamstown to commence the final phase of Contractor sea trials involving communications and combat systems. Both LHDs will be home-ported at Fleet Base East, Sydney (Image © ABIS Bonny Gassner / Navy Imagery Unit - East / Commonwealth of Australia)
The first of two new Landing Helicopter Dock ships being built for the Australian Defence Force, entered Sydney Harbour for the first time on 13 March 2014 as part of her first contractor trials and testing program at sea. Canberra departed the BAE Systems dockyard at Williamstown on 3 March and conducted a series of tests to prove systems and equipment prior to the Contractor delivery of the ship to Defence. The trials tested a variety of systems in different conditions. The ship is scheduled to undertake a commercial docking in the Dry Dock in Sydney, where the size and scale of the LHD platform will be readily apparent. Canberra is scheduled to receive a hull clean in the dock and final paint before proceeding to sea and returning to Williamstown to commence the final phase of Contractor sea trials involving communications and combat systems. Both LHDs will be home-ported at Fleet Base East, Sydney
(Image © ABIS Bonny Gassner / Navy Imagery Unit – East / Commonwealth of Australia)

Rotary wing fleet
The Canberra’s flight deck is 202.3 m (663 feet) long and 32 m (105 feet) wide with six landing spots, primarily designed to accommodate the ADF’s rotary wing fleet. It allows simultaneous take off and landing operations of six medium-sized helicopters like the MRH90 Taipan, S-70B-2 Black Hawk, the new MH-60R Seahawk, or four simultaneous take off and landings of the larger CH-47D/F Chinooks in Royal Australian Army service. There are two aircraft elevators – one aft of the flight deck and one forward of the island on the starboard side – that can accommodate medium sized helicopters, with the after one able to accommodate the larger Chinooks.

Computer generated cut-out of helicopters boarded on the HMAS Canberra (Image © Commonwealth of Australia)
Computer generated cut-out of helicopters boarded on the HMAS Canberra (Image © Commonwealth of Australia)

Hangar
Between the flight deck and the accommodation deck is a contiguous hangar and light vehicle deck. The hanger (aft) can accommodate up to 8 medium sized helicopters with 18 medium sized helicopters able to be accommodated if the light vehicle deck (front) is also used. Accommodation is provided for 1400 personnel, of which 400 are the ship’s own company. The LHD will be jointly crewed with personnel from Navy, Army and the Air Force.

Combat power
Untill (foreign) Harriers or F-35s are admitted during operations, the biggest aerial combat power on the Canberra and Adelaide will come from embarked ARH-Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter, of which 22 operate with the RAA’s 1st Aviation Regiment in Darwin. Getting the two LHDs out at sea has put Australia back in a more strategic maritime role, after the last aircraft carrier of the nation – HMAS Melbourne – was decommissioned in 1982.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger with source information of the Royal Australian Navy

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USMC Hueys deploy on Dutch amphibian Rotterdam

One of the USMC Hueys on board of Dutch amphibian vessel Rotterdam, August 30, 2013 (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
One of the USMC UH-1Ns of HMLA-733 on board of Dutch amphibian vessel Rotterdam, August 29, 2013 (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Two US Marine Corps UH-1N ‘Hueys’ of HMLA-733 deployed to the Dutch amphibian command vessel Zr. Ms. Rotterdam on Thursday August 29, 2013, for a 2.5 month long exercise off the coast of western Africa, the Dutch ministry of Defence writes in a press release.

Apart from the helicopters US and Spanish marines embarked onto the Rotterdam just off the Spanish coast. Together with British and Dutch colleagues they will train military personnel from African nations. This exercise African Winds is an initiative of the US Africa Command. The Rotterdam serves as flagship and local operational headquarters of the training force.

The first marine units already started their training to personnel in Morocco and Senegal. Ghana follows next week. The training includes jungle ops, amphibian ops and boarding operations – how to tactically insert teams onto ships. As soon as the Dutch amphibian command vessel is present, marines from the joining four NATO countries and their African counterparts will train together with naval personnel. The USMC Hueys provide support and a training platform during the exercise.

Source: NL Ministerie van Defensie

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