Modified Landing Craft for the Australian Defence Force

By CMDR Tim Watson

HMAS Canberra has successfully completed trials to transport an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank and large vehicle loads ashore near Townsville, using one of her landing craft.

The trials were conducted at the end of July with units of Army’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 3rd Combat Service Support Battalion.

The landing craft’s engine room had been modified to increase its carrying capacity from 38,000kg to more than 60 tonnes, allowing the landing craft to carry the Army’s heavy tracked vehicles.

Amphibious System Program Office Director Captain Brad Smith said the activity was a culmination of work by a highly dedicated and integrated team of people from Defence and industry, including the Navy Technical Bureau, Defence Science and Technology and Capability and Sustainment Groups.

“These groups combined with Navy to fully realise and unlock the capability of the landing helicopter dock landing craft,” Capt Smith said.

I’m very proud of the skills on display from the leading seaman landing craft coxswains and their crews.

Work to enable the sea trial included the design and installation of an additional watertight bulkhead in the engine room, as well as scale modelling and testing of the landing craft in various sea states at the Marine Research Institute of the Netherlands. This provided the quantitative evidence and confidence needed to progress to the sea phase trials, which were led by the RAN Test and Evaluation Authority.

The trial focused on landing and recovering both the M1A1 main battle tank and the M88A2 recovery vehicle from the landing craft to a beach.

The Army’s 45M heavy recovery vehicle (42 tonne) and the HX77 heavy utility truck (33.5 tonne) were also tested.

Over two days, load trials were completed using all the vehicles, operating to and from the beach in ocean conditions up to sea state three.

Canberra’s Commanding Officer, Capt Terry Morrison, praised the expertise and collaborative approach adopted by the landing craft crews, dock teams and heavy vehicle operators to achieve the milestone.

“I’m very proud of the skills on display from the leading seaman landing craft coxswains and their crews, who are adept in manoeuvring these large loads safely to the beach,” Capt Morrison said.

The Director of the RAN Test and Evaluation Authority, Capt David Frost, attributed the success of the trials to a team effort.

“The focus and professionalism of numerous people across Navy and Army has resulted in a significant capability enhancement for the Australian Defence Force and we look forward to building on this capability as we mature the Maritime Warfare Centre,” Capt Frost said.

This article was published by the Australian Department of Defence on August 8, 2019.