Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced that HMAS Manoora would be decommissioned and that Defence would develop a new comprehensive plan to transition to the new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) Ships.
HMAS Manoora will be decommissioned on the advice of Chief of Navy. The Manoora was placed on operational pause by the Seaworthiness Board in September last year. An examination of the over 40 year old ship has revealed it requires remediation of significant hull corrosion and the replacement of both gear boxes. This work would cost over $20 million and would take until April 2012 to complete. The Manoora was scheduled to be decommissioned at the end of next year. “That is not value for money for another nine months of service,” Mr Smith and Mr Clare said.
Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD):
HMAS Manoora and the Royal Australian Navy’s other amphibious support ships (HMAS Kanimbla and HMAS Tobruk) will be replaced by two Canberra Class LHDs, the largest Ships ever operated by the Royal Australian Navy. Later this month (February 18) the hull of the first LHD will be launched in Spain where it has been constructed by Navantia. The hull will arrive in Melbourne next year for further work to be completed at the Williamstown Shipyard before the LHDbecomes operational in 2014. Australia’s second LHD will become operational the following year. The LHDs are bigger than Australia’s last aircraft carrier. Each is 230 meters long and can carry a combined armed battlegroup of more than 1000 personnel, 100 armoured vehicles and 12 helicopters. Each also includes a 40-bed hospital. “Stepping up to this new capability is going to require a lot of work by Navy,” Mr Smith said. “It is very different to the ships we currently operate. One LHD will effectively replace the entire amphibious force we have today. It also has a number of capabilities, such as a floating dock that the Royal Australian Navy does not currently operate. “Because of the decommissioning of the Manoora and the age of our other amphibious ships, I have asked Defence to present a new comprehensive plan for the transition towards the new LHDs.”
“I have asked Defence to present me with options and recommendations to ensure the smooth transition to the LHD,” Mr Smith said. This could include the lease or purchase of ships that would provide a platform to train and prepare for the LHDs, such as a Bay Class Ship from the UK Government. If this option is taken up it could provide for the decommissioning of the HMAS Kanimbla or HMAS Tobruk to be brought forward. HMAS Kanimbla was also placed on operational pause by the Seaworthiness Board last year. The Kanimbla is not now expected to be available for operations until mid-2012 and is currently scheduled to be decommissioned at the end of 2014. HMAS Tobruk is currently being maintained at a 48 hours readiness posture in order to meet Australian Defence Force preparedness requirements. The Tobruk will be required to dock this year to replace worn-out support bearings on a propeller shaft. She is due to be decommissioned at the end of 2012.
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