July 18, 2012: The hull for the second Australia LHD type amphibious ship was recently launched in Spain, four months ahead of schedule. The hull will be shipped to Australia where it will be fitted out with equipment and machinery.
Five years ago Australia held a competition and selected the Spanish Navantia class LHD design. This is a 27,000 ton ship that is very similar to the U.S. San Antonio class LPD. Both LHDs and LPDs look similar. The main difference is that LHDs are designed more to land troops via helicopter while LPDs put more emphasis on using landing craft. Both classes of ship can carry out helicopter and beach landings.
The Navantia is 230 meters (713 feet long), has a crew of about 140, and can carry 1,100 troops, 100 vehicles, two landing craft, and up to 12 helicopters. There is also a 40 bed hospital. The Navantia's are twice the size of the two amphibious ships Australia is replacing and has a ski-jump flight deck that will enable it to use vertical takeoff warplanes like the Harrier or F-35B. The Australian versions of the Navantia, the 27,800 ton Canberra class, will cost about $1.2 billion each. Australia will receive the first of these LHDs, the Canberra, in two years. The second will enter service a year later.
These two ships will give Australia the ability to quickly send troops to any hot spot in the neighborhood. Australia is often called upon for peacekeeping duties, being the most effective military power in the region. These two LHDs will allow Australia to send troops in sooner, which tends to make the problem less destructive in the long run.