Amphibious warfare ships of Australia

Amphibious warfare ships of Australia

The Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army have operated 24 amphibious warfare ships. These ships have been used to transport Army units and supplies during exercises and operational deployments.

World War II and Cold War ships

The Australian military's first amphibious warfare ships were the three Landing Ships Infantry (LSI): HMAS "Kanimbla", HMAS "Manoora", and HMAS "Westralia". These three ships had been built as civilian motor vessels and were converted to armed merchant cruisers at the outbreak of war in 1939. They were converted again to LSIs in 1943 and took part in United States and Australian amphibious assaults in the South West Pacific Area. [Seapower Centre - Australia (2005). Page 97.] The ships had a capacity of about 1,200 troops, which were landed from boats carried by the LSIs. Following the war, the three LSIs remained in service as transports until 1949 when they were returned to their owners.

The RAN borrowed six Landing Ships Tank (LSTs) from the Royal Navy between 1946 and 1955. [Seapower Centre - Australia (2005). Page 97.] The LSTs were used as general purpose vessels and did not specialise in amphibious operations.

After the LSTs were disposed of Australia was left without any amphibious warfare ships. To rectify this situation the Army purchased four "LSM-1" class Landing Ship Medium from the United States Navy in 1959. These ships were operated by the 32nd Small Ship Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers and supported Army exercises and operations. All four of the ships saw active service during the Vietnam War where they carried supplies between Australia and South Vietnam and between South Vietnamese ports. All four ships were decommissioned in September 1971 when the 32nd Small Ship Squadron was disbanded. [Gillet (2001). Pages 42-45.]

Current ships

The LSMs were replaced by eight "Balikpapan" class landing craft heavy which began to enter service in 1971. The first ship in the class, HMAS "Balikpapan" was briefly operated by the Army's Water Transport force but was later transferred to the Navy and all subsequent ships in the class were transferred to the Navy while they were under construction. [Seapower Centre - Australia (2005). Page 98.] Two ships, HMAS "Buna" and HMAS "Salamaua", were transferred to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in 1974. These ships have proven to be very successful and have supported Australian Army exercises and operations throughout South East Asia.

The Australian Defence Force's (ADF's) amphibious warfare capabilities were significantly expanded in 1982 when the landing ship heavy HMAS "Tobruk" was commissioned. This ship was the first amphibious vessel purpose built for the RAN and was based on the British Round Table class landing ship logistics design. She has supported ADF operations around the world. [cite web |author=Royal Australian Navy |title=HMAS "Tobruk" - Operational Deployments |work=Royal Australian Navy - Official Site |publisher=Commonwealth of Australia |date= |url= |accessdate=2008-01-23Dead link|date=September 2008] Dead link|date=September 2008

The ADF's amphibious warfare capabilities were further expanded in 1994 when two Newport class tank landing ships were purchased from the USN. These ships were greatly modified and finally entered service in the late 1990s as the "Kanimbla" class landing platform amphibious. They have supported ADF operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Solomon Islands and East Timor. [Seapower Centre - Australia (2007). Page 1.]

In addition to the sea-going ships, the RAN and Army also currently operate a number of smaller amphibious craft which are carried by "Tobruk" and the "Kanimbla" class ships. The RAN has four Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) which can carry a Land Rover sized vehicle or 36 personnel. The Army operates a small fleet of LCM-8 mechanised landing craft and LARC-V amphibious cargo vehicles. [Seapower Centre - Australia (2005). Page 104.]

Future ships

HMAS "Tobruk" and one of the LPAs will be replaced by two "Canberra" class LHDs between 2012 and 2014. These ships will be the largest warships ever operated by the Royal Australian Navy, [cite news |first=Hugh |last=White |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Our defence chiefs are thinking big - too big |url= |work=Opinion |publisher=The Age |date=2004-07-13 |accessdate=2008-01-12] and will each be able to carry an infantry battalion and up to 24 Army and Navy helicopters.Gillis (2007). Page 28.] It is planned to replace the other LPA with a sealift ship. [Borgu (2004). Page 2, 6.] A project is also underway to replace the LCHs and the Army and Navy's small amphibious craft. These new craft will be capable of operating from the well decks in the Canberra class ships. [cite web |url= |title=JP2048 Phase 3 - Amphibious Watercraft Replacement |accessdate=2008-02-12 |format= |work=Defence Materiel Organisation website ]




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