10 April 2010

Australia's Warfighting Evolution (1)

10 April 2010

SEA 4000 project : Air Warfare Destroyer with 7,000 tonnes displacement (image : Australian DoD)

East Timor in 1999 and the Al Qaeda attacks on America in 2001 shook the Australian Government out of its comfortable disinterest in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that had permeated policy since the end of the Vietnam War.

With military action needed for a range of missions in an increasing unstable world, the ADF has had to transform itself into a deployable and survivable force. While held back by a range of equipment acquisition failures and overly bureaucratic administration, the ADF has achieved an impressive record of mission success. The force continues to evolve to meet the demands of regional and global security.

Next Generation Navy

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has struggled to retain its trained personnel in the face of the difficult workload demands of the sea service and a buoyant domestic economy. Initiatives like the Sea Change programme and the New Generation Navy (NGN) have sought to alleviate these shortfalls by innovative ways to staff ships and replace existing capability. With additional requirements by the Government for the RAN to provide capability the success of these changes will be crucial. While the RAN is currently modernizing its surface combat fleet it is in the submarine, amphibious and littoral warfare fleets where most change is underway.



SEA 1000 project : 4,000 tonnes new lethal submarines (image : triyun)

The SEA 1000 Future Submarine project will replace the Australian built Collins class with 12 larger and more capable submarines from 2025. These boats will be designed tom eet the requirement for a conventional submarine able to perform over similar ranges and mission durations to one with nuclear power. They are likely to displace around 4,000 tonnes and will have a unique overall design while using sub-systems common with other boats. RAND Corporation is currently carrying out a domestic design study into the capability of Australian and international industry to design the new vessel.

Canberra class project : 27,000 tonnes LHD (image : Australian DoD)

Currently under construction via a mixed method in both Spain and Australia is the first of two 27,851 tonnes Canberra class Landing ships, Helicopter and Dock (LHD). Based on the Navantia Juan Carlos I class, these vessels will enable a significant increase in amphibious lift and sustainment for the ADF. Operating together the two LHDs will be able to deploy a 1,200 strong combined arms battalion group with tanks and medium artillery. Six Eurocopter MRH-90 helicopters carrying an entire infantry company can be simultaneously launched from each LHD.

The ADF will adopt a seabasing concept with the LHDs with only the combat teams deploying ashore and the various combat service support (logistics, medical, etc) and command elements staying afloat. To sustain the two LHDs as they remain in support of the landing group a new sealift ship of 10,000-15,000 tonnes will be acquired to ferry supplies to and form the seabase. This vessel will not be dependent on port infrastructure and able to launch and operate helicopters and amphibious landing craft.

An additional six smaller amphibious landing ships will be acquired to replace the Balikpapan class heavy landing craft. These ships will be ocean going and capable of independent amphibious landings and resupply. Contract decision will be in 2015-18 and likely options include vessels like the US Navy’s TCraft transformable hovercraft, the French CNIM Multipurpose Projection Vessel (MPV) and Australian designed options.

To alleviate crewing demands and provide enhanced capability, the Navy will replace the current 14 Armidale class patrol boats, six Huon class mine hunters and six hydrographic survey ships with a fleet of 20 common ships under project SEA 1180. These 2,000 tonnes Offshore Combatant Vessels will have a helicopter landing deck, hangar and reconfigurable mission deck. This deck will be used to accommodate containerised systems for the mine hunter and hydrographic roles and appropriate smaller vessels, both manned and unmanned, for the various missions as per need. Contract decision will be made in 2018-21 with a high likelihood that the vessel will be designed and built in Australia. The first containerised deployable mine hunter systems will be acquired under SEA 1778 for operation from the Canberra class LHD in 2015-17. This will include both surface and underwater unmanned vessels for deploying mine hunting sensors, countermeasures and to tow various mine sweeps.

(Asian Military Review)

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