2016-03-04 The HMAS Canberra is part of the Australian aid effort to Fiji to help in the wake of Cyclone Winston.
According to the Australian Ministry of Defence:
On Tuesday March 01, HMAS Canberra steamed towards cyclone devastated Koro Island to assist with the Fiji Government’s disaster relief effort.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) elements together with personnel from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) flew ahead from the ship via MRH-90 helicopter to meet with Koro Island local authorities in preparation for Canberra’s arrival.
Commanding Officer, 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment (2CER) toured the island with DFAT and local Fijian authorities to meet and discuss needs with village leaders.
Concurrently, reconnaissance sections from 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) conducted a survey of the island to assess the condition of roads, houses, schools and other infrastructure.
Information gathered will be used to set the priorities for HAMS Canberra’s capability, including amphibious and engineering assets as well as specialist engineer personnel to help carry out repair work.
The ship was commissioned in November 2014
Contractor sea trials commenced in February 2014 and were completed in September 2014. The Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) accepted NUSHIP Canberra from BAE Systems in October 2014 and she sailed to her home port at Fleet Base East, Garden Island, Sydney later that month…..
Canberra carries the pennant number L02 and not L01, even though it was the first of its class to be built. Adelaide will carry pennant number L01. This is so the two ships’ pennant numbers will conform to the convention adopted with their namesakes in the Adelaide class.
HMAS Canberra was commissioned and joined the Royal Australian Navy fleet in an official ceremony at Fleet Base East, Sydney on 28 November 2014. In March 2015, HMAS Canberra was formally designated the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy.
According to the Royal Australian Navy website, the HMAS Canberra and its capabilities are described as follows:
At 27,000 tonnes, the LHDs are the largest ships ever constructed for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and are being built by contractors BAE Systems Australia and Navantia. The ships will provide the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with one of the most capable and sophisticated air-land-sea amphibious deployment systems in the world.
The ships will contribute directly to the defence of Australia and its national interests, and also allow the ADF to provide large-scale humanitarian assistance, at home or in our region.
A conventional steel mono hull design is employed with the superstructure located on the starboard side of the flight deck. They are designed with the shallowest possible draft to operate in secondary ports and harbours as well as manoeuvre in the shallow waters common in the littoral regions.
There are four main decks; heavy vehicle, accommodation, hangar and light vehicles and flight decks.
The construction of the hull to the level of the flight deck and the majority of fit-out is being undertaken at Navantia’s shipyard in Ferrol, Spain. The hull was then transported by Heavy Lift Ship MV Blue Marlin to BAE Systems’s shipyard in Williamstown, Victoria for final construction and fit-out such as the consolidation of the superstructure and installation of the Combat and Communication Systems.
The first LHD was named Canberra in an official naval ceremony on 15 February 2013. Canberrais the third ship to bear the name after the Kent class heavy cruiser and Adelaide class guided missile frigate.
Contractor sea trials commenced in February 2014 and were completed in September 2014. The Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) accepted NUSHIP Canberra from BAE Systems in October 2014 and she sailed to her home port at Fleet Base East, Garden Island, Sydney later that month.
Canberra will be able to conduct amphibious operations and land a force of over 1,000 embarked personnel along with all their weapons, ammunition, vehicles and stores by LCM-1E landing craft, helicopters or a combination of both.
Canberra is capable of conducting large-scale humanitarian and disaster relief missions. The medical facility is of a size and scope of which would rival some regional hospitals equipped with two operating theatres, an eight bed Critical Care Unit, and a variety of low and medium dependency beds. In addition, the medical facility has dedicated areas to accommodate pathology and radiology services, x-ray, pharmacy and dental facilities.
According to an article in The Diplomat, the HMAS Canberra’s role in aid relief was described as follows:
Canberra is headed to Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston, which has reportedly killed dozens, done tremendous property and infrastructure damage, and left up to 30,000 homeless.
The United Nations has suggested that Winston is the most devastating cyclone ever to hit the island.
Canberra is reportedly carrying 800 relief personnel, along with sixty tons of relief equipment.
The Royal Australian Air Force has already begun relief operations, and elements of the Royal New Zealand Navy have joined Canberra in the assistance mission.
The 27,500-ton amphibious assault ship, constructed in Spain and Australia, entered service in late 2014. She and her sister can, in expeditionary combat configuration, carry over a hundred vehicles. In air support configuration, they can carry eighteen helicopters (8 is standard capacity).
The well deck allows the rapid deployment of vehicles and personnel from ship to shore, especially in areas where docking structures have been damaged or destroyed.
Canberra can remain on station for an extended period, especially when acting in conjunction with air and other sea assets.
Relief of Fiji is precisely the kind of operation that Australia envisioned for Canberra and her sister…..
Maritime Southeast Asia (not to mention Oceania) is characterized by wide spaces, meager-to-non-existent infrastructure, low state capacity, and irregular severe weather. Because of this, humanitarian and disaster relief needs are generally underserved.
The Canberra-class (and other, similar ships in other navies) fills this gap by offering platforms for air and sea relief, as well as medical care and infrastructure repair.
On March 3, 2016, the Fijian Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defense, Mr. Timoci Natuva visited the HMAS Canberra and his visit can be seen below in a video provided by the Australian Ministry of Defence.
Mr Natuva was given a first hand look at the capabilities offered by the ship, which has been deployed to Fiji as part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) led Australian Whole of Government response to Fiji’s request for Humanitarian Aide Disaster Relief support in response to Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Mr Natuva was flown onto Canberra before being met by the Commander Joint Task Force 635, Captain Brett Sonter, Commanding Officer HMAS Canberra, Captain Chris Smith and Commander Landing Force, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Bassingthwaighte.
Mr Natuva was given a tour of the vessel, which arrived into Fijian waters on the 1st of March to begin the second phase of Australia’s relief effort, joining Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemasters delivering aid and assistance.
Mr Natuva was briefed on the operation, which is currently focussing on Koro Island, one of the worst islands to be struck by Tropical Cyclone Winston, before returning back to Suva by Helicopter.
Credit: Australian Ministry of Defence, 3/4/16