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Australia Buys A New High Tech Navy

March 17, 2014
Via Royal Australian Navy

Via Royal Australian Navy

Australia has always been a maritime heavyweight among its neighbors.

With the arrival of the Canberra in Sydney last weekend, where it shall reside in Fleet Base East, the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) marks a new chapter for Australia’s navy. Bereft of a proper carrier for years, the NUSHIP Canberra (its designation before commissioning) is the closest to a full carrier-assault ship hybrid in existence.

As a joint venture between BAE Systems and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, the Canberra is the first of two floating behemoths–the other is the Adelaide–that can transport a thousand marines with their helicopters and tanks to any foreseeable theater.

Aside from two formidable LHDs, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is expecting a trio of Hobart-class air-warfare destroyers (AWD) and a dozen landing craft, all manufactured by Navantia. The new Hobart-class is based on the Spanish F100 frigate.

Australia’s next-generation warships will be commissioned and at sea by the decade’s end.

The contracts for the LHD’s and the new destroyers were signed in 2007 after the Australian government found Navantia’s ships more affordable. Both LHD’s cost $3 billion while the destroyers cost an additional $400 million.

By 2011, another contract was signed for 12 landing craft, four of which arrived in Australia on March 4 this year.

The cooperation between the Australian government and Navantia is so broad, especially among the multinational defense contractors involved, Navantia maintains a website to keep observers up to date on its progress.

The RAN, in the spirit of total transparency, provided a very detailed brief of the Canberrra-class’ specifications on its website. Additional information on the Canberra is available on another unofficial website.

The current RAN fleet is composed of 12 frigates, six submarines, and 14 patrol boats. Numerous support craft, including five landing ships for amphibious operations, are also included. With the addition of the LHDs, the Hobarts, and the landing craft, Australia can invade small islands far beyond its shores.

Even if Australia’s $25 billion annual military budget is modest by Western standards, the amount covers across-the-board acquisitions for its fighting men and women. So if its troops must take over a small island, it’s more than ready for the job.