Australia Issues Official Tender for A$ 2.0B Large Amphibious Ships Program
In August of 2005 the Australian government approved the initial design & development funds for an A$ 2 billion Large Amphibious Ships project. The goal is to provide the Royal Australian Navy with two new Canberra Class multi-purpose ships that could serve as an amphibious operations nerve center, playing transport, command centre, humanitarian aid and even limited air support roles. These LHD type ships will replace the Navy’s two existing Kanimbla Class LPAs (HMAS Kanimbla and HMAS Manoora), significantly upgrading Australia’s force projection capabilities.
Australia’s government has now announced the release of Requests for Tender, as well as additional details regarding the envisioned ships and timelines.
Each ship will have the ability to transport up to 1,000 personnel, have 6 helicopter landing spots, and be able to carry a mix of troop lift (S-70 Blackhawk) and armed reconnaissance (Eurocopter Tiger ARH) helicopters. In comparison, the Kanimbla Class carries 450 personnel and can accomodate only 4 helicopters. The new Canberra Class will also be able to transport up to 150 vehicles, including the new M1A1 Abrams tank and other elements of the “Hardened and Networked Army” such as the Bushmaster IMV and the forthcoming vehicles of Project Overlander. Like the ships they will replace, each ship will also be equipped with medical facilities; their size, however, will allow these facilities to include two operating theatres and a hospital ward.
A Tenix-Navantia team will propose a variation of their Navantia 27,000 tonne LHD design, which is similar to the Strategic Projection Ship (Buque de Proyeccion Estrategica) under development for the Spanish Navy and due to be delivered in December 2008. The Thales ADI-Armaris team, meanwhile, will propose a variation of the Armaris 21,300-tonne Mistral Class being built for the French Navy. Both designs have undergone further development since August 2005, and have been adapted to meet specific Australian legislative and regulatory requirements.
As Australia plans to order the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and may choose to make a handful of the F-35B STOVL versions capable of operating from an LHD Class ship, the issue of a ski jump arises. The Navantia design has a built-in ski-jump for use by the Spanish Navy’s EAV-8B Matador/Harrier IIs, and would immediately be capable of operating F-35B STOVLs. Since France doesn’t operate STOVL aircraft, it has not included a ski jump; lacking the size of the USA’s 42,000t LHD Wasp Class ships or the future 50,000t LHA-Rs, the Mistral Class would have to be modified to allow for similar F-35 options.
The tender documentation is intended to allow bidding companies to:
- Submit fixed price bids;
- Bid through life support solutions, and;
- Provide innovative solutions to improve price and schedule.
Australian Minister of Defence Dr. Brendan Nelson notes that final project approval and ship builder and design selection are expected to take place early in 2007. The two ships, to be named HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, are scheduled to enter service with the Royal Australian Navy from 2012.
- DID – Australia’s Canberra Class LHDs
- DCNS – Mistral Class LHD
- Thales Australia – LHD Program bid site for Mistral Class
- Navantia-Tenix – LHD Program bid site
- Australia DoD (June 20/07) – $3 Billion Amphibious Ships Will Strengthen ADF, Boost Australian Industry. Cost is up by 50% to A$ 3 billion, as Navantia’s larger design wins.
- Tenix (June 20/07) – Tenix, Navantia welcome Amphibious Ships decision. You’d hardly expect them to rubbish it, now would you?
- Defense News (May 28/07) – France Shows Off Amphib. Explains how France worked to keep the cost of the Mistral Class the same as its smaller predecessors, the 12,400 ton Foudre and Siroco. France spent about EUR 650 million ($875 million) for the Mistral and Tonnerre, thanks to a modular construction approach that used several shipyards and contractors to build different ship sections: DCN (prime contractor, aft part of the ships, integrated the combat system and completed the vessels in Brest; subcontracted more than half the after section to Stocznia Remontowa in Gdansk, Poland); Alstom Marine-Chantiers de l’Atlantique (fore sections including all living and most working spaces, propulsion pods); and Thales (design, radar surveillance system, communications system).
- Thales Australia (May 28/07) – Thales Australian LHD contender proven operationally ready [PDF]