HMAS Canberra has successfully received a United States Navy Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) within its internal well dock, marking a world-first for the class of ship.
The docking is the first for Spanish designed Navantia Juan Carlos I-class multi-purpose amphibious ships and the Royal Australian Navy.
The US Navy LCAC is a high speed, "over the beach" fully amphibious landing craft (or hovercraft) capable of carrying up to 75 tonnes of cargo at speeds of over 40 knots.
It is used to transport United States Marine Corps personnel and equipment from ship to shore and across the beach in either amphibious assault or humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
The trial was followed shortly after by the successful recovery and launch of four United States Marine Corps (USMC) Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV).
HMAS Canberra’s Boat Group Commander, Lieutenant Sandy Jardine said the achievement was the first step in a long future working with US amphibious assets.
“The AAV will bring protected mobility across the water for our soldiers, while the LCAC gives us over the horizon reach at more than 40 knots,” he said.
“So between the two of them, the future is pretty rosy for combined US and Australian operations.”
The trial was not without its challenges with Canberra’s deeper well dock initially making it harder for the LCAC to reverse.
Embarked US Navy Senior Deck Assessor, Chief Warrant Officer Anthony Diaz said the issues were quickly resolved.
“For LCAC recovery, we needed to ensure the well dock stayed dry and at the correct angle,” he said.
“We achieved that by adjusting the trim of the ship, and bringing the ship up to a higher speed."
“Americans and Australians have always had a good working relationship, and to be able to experience this on board HMAS Canberra has been a very rewarding experience.”
Royal Australian Navy Petty Officer Bosun Michael Hammond guided the craft in to HMAS Canberra.
He likened the role to guiding a helicopter landing on a ship’s flight deck.
“It was a bit intimidating at first due to its size,” he said.
“It’s a really tight fit in the well dock and there’s a lot of wind and spray. I basically got drenched."
“It was a big highlight for me to be the first person to ever do it in this class of ship."
“We’ve proved that we can operate with the LCACs and other nation’s landing craft so that gives us a lot more versatility and enhances our capability.”