Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today provided an update on the Royal Australian Navy’s Amphibious Ship capability.
Purchase of Largs Bay
The Government announced on 6 April that Australia had been successful in its bid to acquire the United Kingdom’s Bay Class amphibious ship Largs Bay at a cost of £65 million (approximately $A100 million).
Australia has now signed a Letter of Intent with the UK Government and the first two payments of £22 million each (£44 million or $A66 million in total) have been made on the ship.
A sea-trial of the ship has also been conducted.
The trial was conducted in two phases - a harbour phase (11-17 April) followed by the at-sea phase (18-19 April).
Defence’s final report on the sea-trial confirms that the ship is in good material state.
International shipping firm, Teekay Shipping Australia, thoroughly inspected the ship prior to the submission of Australia’s bid and found that:
"the ship presents very well, and from a technical point of view, there are no major defects.”
Teekay was also engaged on the sea trial and have provided an updated report that confirms their previous assessment.
The Government will now give consideration to what modifications are necessary for Australian use of Largs Bay, with such work on the ship subject to Government approval.
The ship remains on track to arrive in Australia by the end of the year in time for it to be operational in Australia in early 2012.
HMAS Tobruk will be docked in Sydney today for previously announced required maintenance, which is expected to take around two months.
In order to ensure Australia has an amphibious capability during this period, the Australian Government has chartered the long range support ship Aurora Australis from P&O Maritime Services from 8 May 2011 to 30 June 2011, with options for an extension up to a month.
The Aurora Australis is a 94 metre Super Icebreaker.
It can carry 700 tonnes of cargo, transport 116 passengers, embark watercraft and support helicopter operations.
The vessel regularly supports Antarctic bases with limited or no port facilities, making it unique among commercial vessels currently available and ideal for humanitarian and disaster relief work.
The charter of this vessel will help ensure that Australia is able to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief incidents over this period.
The lease will cost $3.375 million and will be met from within existing Defence resources.
If required for operations it can be supported by a Guided Missile Frigate as well as Heavy Landing Craft.
The charter of the Aurora Australis is in addition to Australia’s agreement with New Zealand that the New Zealand amphibious lift ship HMNZS Canterbury would be made available as part of the joint Pacific-focused Ready Response Force during Tobruk’s maintenance period, subject to any operational requirements in New Zealand.
HMAS Tobruk is also scheduled for routine maintenance for around a six week period in September and October 2011 to prepare the ship ahead of cyclone season.
Detailed planning is currently underway to ensure Australia has an amphibious capability during this period. Details will be provided closer to that time.
Options under consideration include ongoing cooperation with New Zealand over the use of HMNZS Canterbury, Aurora Australis and a range of commercial options.