HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide – Australia’s Canberra class Landing Helicopter Dock Ships that were commissioned by the Australian Defence Force to give the country a new level of capabilities – well that was the intention and today’s news wasn’t the best to hear.

ABC News is reporting that these $1.5 Billion dollar vessels with next generation technology and the ability to carry over a thousand troops into combat are currently in dry-dock and not going anywhere anytime soon.

In March of this year, both ships were sent to Garden Island (a major naval facility in Sydney) when problems were identified with the propulsion systems on both ships which is a bit of a problem since the ships were only commissioned a couple of years earlier and that they are still in dry-dock today after a 10 day repair time frame was given.

According to the Defence Department emergent issues were identified during a first of class flight trials on HMAS Canberra and that such problems have since been identified on HMAS Adelaide.

And there is frustration on the ships repairs; Defence Minister Marise Payne has expressed her frustration privately about the delays in repairs that stopped either ship from being used in the Cyclone Debbie recovery and Opposition Assistant Defence Spokesman David Feeney has said that the government needs to come clean about what is happening with the two LHDS as the Australian people need to know.

The Canberra class are not strangers to controversy. The Adelaide was dry-docked back in 2015 after an operator error caused the amphibious launch doors to be locked open, both ships have caused outrage over the blow out in costs, their delays in launch and were criticised from a strategic point of view as they lack the capabilities to launch jets from their decks.

The LHD’s were supposed to be a success story and demonstrate Australian strength in the region however with their consistency of design issues and an ever growing need to spend more money to keep them maintained, they are turning out to be the lemons the Australian Defence Force doesn’t need.


  1. More or less the exact same article could have been written substituting the subject of the Canberra Class to our own Type 45’s. It’s always frustrating when naval vessels develop issues, however, these are complex pieces of equipment and especially with new designs, although the hulls are based on another vessel, things like this will happen. I would avoid calling it a disaster after 10 days. If they’re still in drydock in 3 or 4 months time, then we can up the ante on the disaster scale perhaps moving from level “Tutt” to “FFS”.

  2. Well that’s interesting. As a valuable ally I wish nothing but good for the Australian armed forces but, with Navantia behind the Canberra design and Navantia also involved in one of the three shortlisted contenders for the Australian Navy’s future frigate contract (the F105 with the other two on the shortlist being FREMM and T26), I wonder whether this weakens the F105 bid and might help T26’s chances of winning. Here’s hoping.

    • “I wonder whether this weakens the F105 bid and might help T26’s chances of winning. Here’s hoping.” I wondered the same thing as I read the article and agree with you. If the Type 26s can be produced without the same propulsion flaws as the Type 45s, then the British will have created a world-beater of a design. Thankfully, most of the systems on the Type 26 have already been tested and proven, so there shouldn’t be as much worry as with the 45s. Would love to see Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Brazil buy a bunch of these ships. I only wish the British were building 20 of the darn things.

      • “Would love to see Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Brazil buy a bunch of these ships.”

        With the slightly dubious added benefit that, if Australia and Canada’s plans survive intact and don’t end up getting the numbers reduced as so often happens with UK plans, then both of those countries would each end up operating more T26s than the UK! I call it a “dubious benefit” because if that were to happen then just possibly it might embarrass some future UK government into adding some extra hulls to the UK T26 program so that we didn’t end up as the third biggest operator of our own design.

        In reality I suspect that there’s a strong possibility that both Australia and Canada will reduce hull numbers at some point before their programs complete. Every western economy is struggling at the moment with ageing demographics putting strain on their budgets.

  3. They are valuable vessels but the design was not proven. As with many modern ships – too sophisticated with inadequate work-up, crewing levels and continuous crew training.

  4. I hope the RAN can get these ships repaired before too long. If I am reading the article correctly, both have been laid up awaiting repair since March? It would be nice to think that one day when QE or POW pays a visit to Australia, F-35Bs could fly from Canberra’s or Adelaide’s deck, but according to Wikipedia their decks aren’t up to operating the aircraft, though I don’t know how much faith to put into that. Still, it would be nice to see QE or POW with Canberra or Adelaide, both flying F-35Bs.

    • As far as I am aware the Australian authorities looked into flying F35b’s of the Canberra’s but it proved too expensive to modify the ships.
      It would require updated air traffic control systems and radar, additional refuelling capability and logistic support as well as deck strengthening and applying fire resistant paint.

  5. This is a bad news story. I had hopes the RN and HMG would see sense and build a replacement for HMS Ocean. The Canberra design was probably top of my wish list for a future RN lphd design.
    Hope the Australian can get the issues sorted out soon.