Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Options for Amphibious Operations by Australian Defence Force

Media reports indicate that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will have limited capabilities for amphibious operations for the foreseeable future. The Landing Platform Amphibious ship HMAS Manoora (L 52) will be retired during 2011. Sister ship HMAS Kanimbla (L 51) requires repair until mid 2012, but may be retired early. Landing Ship Heavy (LSH) HMAS Tobruk (L 50) is in for longer repairs than anticipated.

Kanimbla was to be replaced in 2014, by the Canberra class amphibious warfare ship HMAS Canberra. But Canberra may not be delivered on schedule. Also the Canberra class ships are much larger and so less able to do some of the tasks undertaken by the smaller ships.

One option under consideration by the Australian government is to acquire the UK's landing ship dock RFA Largs Bay (L3006), which is being retired due to UK defence budget cuts. Largs Bay is larger (and more capable) than Kanimbla and would complement the Canberra class ships.

Another option being considered is sharing New Zealand's HMNZS Canterbury multi-role vessel (MRV)HMNZS Canterbury. Canterbury is smaller than Kaninbla and less capable of providing for heavy amphibious operations, but is more suited to low intensity operations (and much cheaper to operate). The closest comparable Australian ship is the southern ocean patrol vessel ACV Ocean Protector.

One option not raised in the media so far would be the use of Austrlaian built high speed multi hull vessels.
Artist's impression of the Austal design for the Joint High Speed Vessel
The USA is acquiring up to ten Fortitude class Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) designed by West Australian based company Austal. The RAN has previously operated a similar (but smaller) ship HMAS Jervis Bay (AKR 45) to support operations in East Timor. These ships lack the ability to operate heavy landing craft to deliver tanks to a beach. However, they can operate helicopters and could be adapted to operate smaller landing craft. They also can deliver tanks and heavy equipment to a port with no shore infrastructure required. This was demonstrated when the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) used the Australian designed high speed catamaran “Huakai” to deliver aid to Haiti. Use of such ships would allow a level of commonality in operations with the USA and would also have th political benefit of supporting Australian ship builders.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Australia needs more than just 2 LHD'S.We need 2-lhd's,2 meduim size vessels like bay class,and 4-6 ship like Canterbury or austal ships.Australia needs a marine force for international duties.NZ even has one of 400 personnel,why can't Australia have 3000 troops and personnel for it's international force.And Australia only has 59 tanks Singapore has 209,Australia needs to look at this now,and buy or lease now until we can build our own fleet.Problem lies with DGP not large enough to do all,maintain ships and buy new assets.26.9Billion is not enough,it should 42-50 billion.