In recent years the Australian amphibious fleet has been woefully lacking in capacity, but on 28 November 2014 all of that changed for the better. The Royal Australian Navy gained an enormous new asset as the first Canberra-class large-deck amphibious-assault ship was commissioned into service. Displacing more than 27,000 tons when fully loaded, the 757-foot warship can carry more than a dozen helicopters and embark 1,000-plus combat troops. Construction of the Canberra began in 2009 at Navantia’s Ferrol shipyard in Spain. Once the ship was launched in 2011 she was transferred to BAE’s Williamstown shipyard in Australia for fitting out. In addition to a large flight deck, two aircraft elevators, and a helicopter hangar deck, the ship’s floodable stern well can accommodate four LCM-sized landing craft. Fitted with extensive medical facilities, the ship has a range of 9,000 nautical miles, allowing for distant operations in support of a wide variety of maritime missions. A second unit of the class, HMAS Adelaide, is expected to enter service in 2016.
By Eric Wertheim