The Australian Department of Defence has confirmed that its two Canberra class amphibious assault ships are operational.
This is following the rectification of propulsion system issues that have left them stuck in port over recent months.
As has previously reported at the UK Defence Journal, and widely in the Australian media, the Canberra class vessels have both been out of service since March with propulsion system issues.
Speculation has been rife as to the exact cause of the issue with allegations ranging from faulty manufacturing to using the wrong oil. According to the latest statement, inspection of HMAS Adelaide identified wear in some bearings in the port-side propulsion pod. It is believed that this wear resulted in oil contamination which ultimately crippled the system.
Adding to the controversy in the public discourse was the advent of Tropical Cyclone Debbie which caused havoc in Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales and led to allegations in the media that the Navy was unable to assist with both vessels offline.
These claims were refuted at the time by the Navy, which deployed the Bay class landing ship HMAS Choules to assist the affected communities and civilian response agencies.
According to the latest statement the propulsion pod problems have now been rectified, as such HMAS Canberra has completed its maintenance period and is ready for service. HMAS Adelaide will be floated out of dry-dock today ahead of sea trials before working back up to full operational capability of the next few months.
The most immediate result of this development is that HMAS Canberra, having passed its initial propulsion sea trials in May, will return to sea at the end of the week and sail for the Shoalwater Bay Training Area off Rockhampton in Queensland for Exercise Talisman Sabre.
Exercise Talisman Sabre is a biannual exercise involving both Australia and the United States which promotes close working relationship and interoperability between their respective military forces. 2017 will mark the seventh occasion the exercise has been held and it is expected to involve over 30,000 participants from both nation’s armed forces.
Australia had intended for the participation of its two largest and newest assets to be the centrepiece of its participation, the suggestion that neither would make it was therefore the subject of much embarrassment. While the Adelaide’s presence will be missed, defence chiefs will be relieved to have at least one vessel participating.