The first of the Royal Australian Navy’s new Landing Helicopter Dock ships is ~1/3 of its way to Australia. Launched in February 2011, the LHD Canberra is the first of two Canberra class Landing Helicopter Dock ships being built for the Royal Australian Navy. The ships are based on the design of Spain’s SPS Juan Carlos I which entered service in the Spanish Navy in 2010. The hull and flight deck were built in a Spanish shipyard and are being transported to Australia via heavy lift ship. The same lift ship was used to transport the USS Cole back to the United States after it was bombed by Islamic fundamentalists on October 12, 2000. Upon arrival in Australia in November, the Canberra’s final fitting out will be performed by BAE Systems. Once commissioned in 2014, the Canberra will be the largest warship to ever serve in the Royal Australian Navy.
Depending upon mission needs, the Canberra class LHDs can accomodate up to 1,000 troops and 110 vehicles in its multiple decks. The Canberra’s welldeck can hold and launch 4 landing craft and RHIBs. Air capabilities include 6 medium helicopter launch spaces and room for 26 medium-helicopters (up to CH-47 Chinook size) in its hanger and light vehicle deck. The ship is approximately the same size as the United States’ Wasp class amphibious assault ships and as such could most likely operate V-22 Ospreys as well as the F-35B if/when it becomes available. Additionally, the ship was designed with the lightest draft possible so as to be able to operate in the littorals and secondary ports. The addition of the Canberra and her sister ship Adelaide in 2015 will give the Royal Australian Navy further power projection capabilities and help maintain the balance of power in a region increasingly under the influence of Chinese autocracy.