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Largest ship ever built for the Royal Australian Navy begins final sea trials


August 22, 2014

Nuship Canberra transiting the waters of Jervis Bay, New South Wales (Photo: RAN)

Nuship Canberra transiting the waters of Jervis Bay, New South Wales (Photo: RAN)

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The largest ship ever built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has taken to sea as it begins its final contractor trials. The 27,800 tonne (30,600 ton) Nuship Canberra is the first of two Land Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships under construction for the Australian Defence Force and is billed by the RAN as “one of the most capable and sophisticated air–land-sea amphibious deployment systems in the world.”

Canberra left Williamstown shipyard in Victoria earlier this month for Port Phillip Bay before moving on to the southern coast of New South Wales, where prime contractor BAE Systems will carry out tests of the ship, including the combat and communication systems, before returning to Williamstown around the end of the month. Aboard the craft are personnel from BAE Systems; subcontractors Navantia, Saab, L3 and Teekay; and the Defence Materiel Organisation, as well as RAN officers and sailors.

The latter are using the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the ship after undergoing a first-time simulator training at the BAE Systems facility at Mascot, NSW, which is designed to make instruction more efficient and cost effective. When the trials are complete, Canberra will be handed over to the the RAN for commissioning as HMAS Canberra (LHD02).

The keel for Canberra was laid down on September 23, 2009 and launched on February 17, 2011. The hull was built by Navantia in Ferrol, Spain using a modular system that allowed the hull to be constructed as 105 discrete modules, which were then assembled before being sent by barge to the BAE Systems shipyard in Williamstown for installation of the additional seven modules making up the superstructure along with the combat and communications systems that include air and surface radar, and advanced communications and surveillance systems.

With a length of 230 m (754 ft) and 32 m (104 ft) abeam, Canberra is no skylark. It’s designed for defense and to provide large-scale humanitarian assistance, which is reflected by her shallow draught of 7 m (22 ft) to allow her to operate inshore and in secondary ports. When underway, she can cruise at 15 knots (17 mph, 28 km/h) and does over 20 knots (23 mph, 37 km/h) at flank speed. Cruising range is 9,000 nautical miles (10,350 mi, 16,600 km)

Canberra has an onboard hospital, a galley capable of preparing 5,000 meals a day, four main decks for heavy vehicles, accommodations for the crew and troops, helicopter hangar and light vehicles, and the helicopter flight deck. The latter boasts a ski jump that will allow Canberra to launch Harriers or F-35B Lightning IIs, though she isn't designed to handle fixed-wing aircraft as part of her regular complement. Below, the hull opens to receive four specially built landing craft.

Nuship Canberra is expected to be delivered to the RAN later this year. Meanwhile, the lessons learned in building Canberra will be applied to speed up construction of her sister ship Adelaide.

"This is the last major element of a very complex and comprehensive test program to prove the capabilities of the ship and its systems prior to delivery to our customer," says Director of BAE Systems Maritime, Bill Saltzer. "Getting this ship to this stage has been a collaborative effort between BAE Systems and the Defence Materiel Organisation. Our two project teams have worked closely throughout the project and now we are in the home stretch for the Canberra."

The RAN video below gives a tour of Nuship Canberra.

Sources: BAE Systems, RAN

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Fine looking Vessel

Dave Lillig

I like those ships (two Australian and two Spanish). I think that Italian Navy in future can build tree new ships similar to this excellent design (LPD + LHD) Good

Germano Pecoraro

like Ike said, "beware the military/industrial complex"

Len Simpson

The Australian military has a history of buying badly-designed expensive crap (submarines, F35) but some of their recent purchases have been decent.

These ships look OK, our buy of C-17s was inspired and we got some refurbished US M1A1 tanks at a bargain basement price some years ago. They're good tanks, but we'll probably never see them used in anger.


@Len, yeah gotta agree.

Bill Bennett

The addition of the ski jump is a nice touch to an amphibious warfare ship.

@ Wombat56 "but we'll probably never see them used in anger."

A result to be prayed for.


Begun in September 2009???? Delivered (comissioned) in 2014 (so far)??? Just as well we did not need them urgently! Like for a looming war situation. When the next war we might need them for rolls around, they will probably be obsolete.

The Skud

This is actually a NAVANTIA vessel, made mainly in Spain, for Australia. Navantia is a company from Spain, and one of the biggest and most advanced Navy/Maritime/Shipyards/Defense companies worldwide. Besides Militar and civil vessels, they also make engines, turbos, maintenance /life-cycle, systems, consulting etc. related to Navy/Naval sector and Defense.

As a curiosity the "Tour of Spain bicycle race", one of the biggest Cycling race/events besides the french Tour (La Vuelta Ciclista a España), a 3-week tour with over 20 stages and 3,100km held annually in September, has started its 3rd Stage today from a similar vessel that Navantia built for the Spanish Navy (Armada). And what is more... this 3rd Stage of August 25th, has been won by an Australian: Michael Matthews.

Yes, just today, August 25th, the 3rd Stage started from the "Juan Carlos I (L61)" Navy Ship; and the departure/"disembarking" of the peloton took place from inside the ship. And the Australian Michael Matthews was the winner in today's Cycling stage of the 'Vuelta a España'-Stage 3: Cadiz - Arcos de la Frontera (188km).

!!! This has to be an good Omen, a sign of Good Luck for the two similar ships built for Australia by NAVANTIA/BAE... isn't it? !!!

If anyone is interested in this class of vessels, the 'Vuelta' stages can be seen everyday in many TV worldwide, and I know for sure that "EuroSport" TV shows every stage several times today and during the week... You can watch the Vessel (almost identical to its Australian brothers), and the Cyclists interviewed between the Navy Aircraft, and taking the departure of the stage later...

Here you have some links with videos about it in some cycling Webs, and in the Spanish TV: EuroSport web site probably too - ? ciclismo/la-vuelta-se-va-a-la-guerra

Ol\'ArKansas Marine

@ The Skud The good guys having a capable military help prevent war.

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