Landing Helicopter Docks Big ships taking shape

he two massive LHDs that are under construction at Williamstown in Melbourne and Ferrol in Spain are now entering an advanced stage of the project. Being built by Navantia, the hull of Ship 02 - which will become HMAS Adelaide - is 85% complete and will begin the journey to Australia for the final stage of assembly in December this year. Ship 01 – or in the jargon of naval shipbuilding NUSHIP CANBERRA - is on track to begin trials next year, with prime contractor BAE Systems confident of being able to deliver her to the Navy on schedule in 2014.

7th May 2013

 Landing Helicopter Docks

Big ships taking shape

Byline: Kym Bergmann / Canberra


The two massive LHDs that are under construction at Williamstown in Melbourne and Ferrol in Spain are now entering an advanced stage of the project. Being built by Navantia, the hull of Ship 02 - which will become HMAS Adelaide - is 85% complete and will begin the journey to Australia for the final stage of assembly in December this year. Ship 01 – or in the jargon of naval shipbuilding NUSHIP CANBERRA - is on track to begin trials next year, with prime contractor BAE Systems confident of being able to deliver her to the Navy on schedule in 2014.

According to BAES the platform and combat system design activities are largely complete, concluding with successful combat system integration at the Land Based Test Site in December 2012. The LHD 01 hull, fully outfitted, arrived in Australia in October 2012. Since then BAES has erected the entire superstructure and is completing the outfitting and cabling to begin Set To Work and Integration in the next few weeks. The remainder of the year sees the program run through Harbour Acceptance Trials and Sea Acceptance Trials to enable handover of the ship in February 2014. The Integrated Logistic support program for documentation, spares and training is on track to fully support the handover of the ship.

Asked to comment on workload issues, the company explained:

“The first LHD is scheduled to be delivered to the RAN early February 2014 and the second LHD arrives late February 2014. The majority of the construction on the first LHD will be completed third quarter 2013 thus allowing integration, testing and sea trials to proceed. A seamless transition will occur between ship 1 and ship 2 as ship 1 completes all necessary documentation for handover and ship 2 begins the superstructure consolidation and completion of outfitting.”

ITT Exelis

On the systems side of the equation, the latest major announcement was in March when ITT Exelis were awarded a contract valued at more than $102 million to provide the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) suite for Australia’s ANZAC frigates and the Canberra class LHDs. The company says that their ES-3701 ESM system will significantly improve the Royal Australian Navy‘s capability to detect radars from other surface ships and aircraft. It provides situational awareness, targeting, self-protection and surveillance, and utilizes a Windows-based interface for robust, easy-to-use graphical displays. The selection of the ES-3701 also provides commonality with other large warships in Australia’s fleet, as the system is also being deployed on the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD). Exelis told APDR that the systems are similar but not identical due to differences in ship design and technical requirements.

Asked to explain the pedigree of the system the company explained that there are over 50 ES-3701 ESM systems installed within various navies around the world. Using an example from the commercial aviation sector, Exelis says that just as Boeing has done with the B-737 aircraft, so too they have continually upgraded and improved this extremely effective technology.

Saab Systems.

The heart of the LHD combat system is a variant of that supplied to the RAN for the ANZAC frigates. The company explains the difference:

“One of the key features of the 9LV Combat Management System software is its modularity and scalability. The LHD Combat Management System (CMS) is an adaptation of the ANZAC Anti-Ship Missile Defence Mk3E 9LV453 CMS. The baseline for this adaptation is the proven ASMD Release 2A.

“The CMS objectives are to enable the LHD to plan for and support the execution of the operational functions of the LHD including amphibious operations using helicopters and watercraft. In addition the Combat System provides a surveillance capacity and a self-defence capability, particularly against asymmetric threats such as small boats. The Multilink communications function will allow the LHD to maintain interoperability with other protective units to defeat more conventional threats. This will allow it to operate effectively in both national and multi-national task groups.

“Changes have been made to provide new interfaces for the LHD specific sensors such as the Saab Sea Giraffe AMB Radar and LHD IFF solution. Enhancements have included LHD specific functionality such as Airspace Management, Watercraft Control, the inclusion of Large Screen Displays for data monitoring in multiple spaces, and the incorporation of MultiLink functionality. In addition, the Weapon systems have been adapted to the specific LHD configuration and needs. All the modified or additional functionality is supported by Human Machine Interface changes to optimise operation of the LHD Combat Management System.”

Saab Systems says that in terms of operator consoles the LHD CMS is the larger 9LV CMS system, and includes some functionality not found in ANZAC. Technically it is less complex, in terms of the equipment interfaces, than ANZAC ASMD. There are some software architectural differences in the LHD 9LV CMS and its design means that it is quicker and more affordable to develop, upgrade and support. The LHD CMS retains much of the core functionality of 9LV found on the ANZAC class, including comprehensive track management and correlation, threat management, navigation and operational support functions.

Software modules developed in the future for either platform can also be installed and tested in either platform, depending on RAN requirements. From the crews perspective the differences in the Human Machine Interface between the two systems are minimal and cross-decking of Combat System Operations personnel between ANZAC and LHD will be quite straightforward.

Saab says that the LHD Combat System, including Combat Management System and associated Sensors and Weapons, has successfully completed Integration Testing at the Land Based Test Site at Williamstown and is currently completing installation onto LHD NUSHIP Canberra in preparation for Set to Work and Harbour testing throughout 2013. Work is progressing well and the company is looking forward to seeing the LHD Combat System go through its paces during these trials.

Looking ahead for the next year, the focus will be on the successful installation, set to work and harbour testing and sea trials on LHD NUSHIP Canberra. In addition Saab is delivering an operator and maintainer training system for the LHD CMS and will commence training of RAN personnel in mid-2013. This is a particularly import activity and Saab has developed a new range of low cost COTS based training consoles which emulate the look and feel of the larger shipboard consoles. The new consoles have completed production and will be shipped for installation shortly. From a personnel perspective Saab has ramped down from the peak project team but there are still approximately 30 staff involved in the project. The team is mainly located in Adelaide with some presence in the shipyard in Williamstown, and with training installation work also to be conducted in Sydney.

Turning to support activities, Saab believes that there are significant benefits from the common 9LV heritage with reuse of training and the benefits of having ANZAC experienced RAN personnel. There are also significant maintenance and logistic support benefits from both the hardware and software perspectives. Transitional training from ANZAC ASMD to LHD will be minimal and although there are some architectural and equipment differences in the CMS between the two classes of ship there is also substantial commonality.

Saab believes that the key to mission success is effective distribution of work in the Operations Room. This allows the commander to obtain the maximum capability and efficiency from the Command team. The 9LV CMS provides functional-based allocation of roles and is configurable during runtime. This provides the basis for flexible and sustainable workload management. The 9LV CMS also features an on-board training function that provides flexible game definition supporting the construction of a wide variety of training exercises that can be executed in a simulated environment. Sensors and weapons are simulated thus enabling realistic training for the whole decision chain, from detection to engagement.

Navy & Army users.

Asked to explain how Navy was preparing for the delivery of the first LHD, a spokesperson explained to APDR:

“The crew of the first ship has begun training, which is being delivered by the prime contractor BAES. This training will be completed in time for the delivery of the ship to Navy in early 2014. International training and engagement also continues with the United States, United Kingdom and Spain to build experience and knowledge in supporting the new amphibious capability.

“Exposure to other nations’ capability and doctrine has also allowed the RAN and ADF to continue to develop its amphibious doctrine, which is developing into a comprehensive doctrine suite based on world’s best practice. This doctrine will continue to be refined as the amphibious capability matures, ensuring that the ADF has a robust capability that is interoperable with key Allies and Partner Nations.”

And regarding the Army, the spokesperson said:

“The Chief of Army has tasked the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) to form Army’s Amphibious Battle Group. This Battle Group is responsible for enhancing Army’s amphibious capability. In the past 12 months elements of 2RAR have undergone training in Australia supported by United States Marine Corps Mobile Training Teams and United Kingdom Royal Marine subject matter experts. The training has focused upon planning amphibious operations, expeditionary logistics and expeditionary communications. Members of 2RAR have also benefited from the opportunity to observe United States Marine Corps certification exercises overseas.

“The Deployable Joint Force Headquarters is responsible for leading the Joint and Army development of the amphibious capability. This Headquarters continues to develop joint amphibious doctrine and concepts for operations in support of the amphibious capability.

“In the past 12 months Army has designed the Amphibious Pre-deployment Training Program similar in concept to the proven United States Marine Corps Pre-deployment Training Program. The Amphibious Pre-deployment Training Program is aligned with the Army Training Continuum and will commence when the Amphibious Infantry Battalion and enablers have met individual and collective training proficiencies within their respective core trades.

“In 2013 Army will validate the Amphibious Pre-deployment Training Program through the conduct of a trial certification exercise synchronised with Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013. Navy will support the conduct of the trial with HMAS Choules.

“Concurrent to the development of the 2RAR Amphibious Battle Group, Army Aviation and the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm are developing the rotary wing capability for the LHDs which will see MRH90 Taipan, EC665 Tiger and CH-47F Chinook embarked in support of the Amphibious Task Group. Development of LHD Aviation capability will begin with First of Class Flight Trials for each aircraft type and will then undergo a graduated increase in aviation capability in line with the Amphibious Battle Group. Rotary wing capability will culminate in a mixed fleet Rotary Wing Group operating from both LHDs.”

Possible role for the F-35.

There has been persistent speculation since the beginning of the project that the ships might one day embark Joint Strike Fighters, giving Navy two mini aircraft carriers and replacing a capability lost with the retirement of HMAS Melbourne in 1982. Indeed, it is possible that Spain will eventually use their virtually identical LHDs in this sort of role. It is certainly the intention of the United States to use their various amphibious support ships as F-35 platforms, with the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus observing that this will increase the number of US aircraft carriers from the present 11 to a total of 22.

Asked to comment on the likelihood of Australia also going in this direction, a Defence spokesperson said:

“It is technically possible for a STOVL JSF to land on and take off from an LHD, however, the ships company will not have the training, qualifications or certification to undertake aviation platform activities beyond those required for rotary wing operations.”




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