Surface Forces: August 16, 2000


: The Royal Australian Navy is considering several options to meet the needs of the new century, and has found a solution that is both unique and obvious: the multi-role auxiliary or MRA. This ship, if built, would look on the outside like one of the smaller aircraft carriers or amphibious landing platforms. Inside, however, it is more like a cross between an amphibious warfare ship and a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship. The ship would be about 22,000 tons, and could cruise for 6,500 nautical miles at 18 knots. (Short dashes could reach 22 knots, but would burn a lot of fuel.) The 224m flight deck could handle six BlackHawk helicopters at the same time. Two 70-ton cranes are provided to load and unload landing craft. The Australians regard the Timor mission as the model for the next two decades of its military responsibilities. As such, ships are needed that could carry and support not only troops but supplies. By combining several missions (underway replenishment, sealift for an entire battalion, amphibious warfare, aviation, humanitarian relief, logistical support, or aviation support) it would cost less than building several different ships. The Australian Navy insists that it would cost no more than an average frigate.--Stephen V Cole


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