Australia – Defence Capability Updates

Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Defence / Jason Clare MP, Minister for Defence Materiel
Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today provided an update on a number of Defence capability projects and activities.

Largs Bay Sales Agreement Signed

Mr Smith and Mr Clare announced finalisation of the acquisition process for the United Kingdom Bay Class amphibious ship Largs Bay.

The Government announced on 6 April that Australia had been successful in its bid to acquire the United Kingdom’s Bay Class amphibious ship Largs Bay at a cost of £65 million (approximately $100 million).

The negotiations for the RFA Largs Bay have now been completed with the signing of the Sales Agreement by the Australian and the United Kingdom Governments on 8 June. The third and final payment of $35 million (£22 million) will now be made.

The purchase follows successful sea-trials undertaken in April and inspection by international Shipping firm Teekay confirming that the Ship is in a good material state.

The Ship will now undergo essential re-fit and maintenance work in the United Kingdom as part of the Ship’s normal five–year recertification cycle to allow the Ship to join the Royal Australian Navy in Australia at the end of this year.

The Largs Bay is a 16,000 tonne landing ship launched in 2003 and commissioned in 2006. It was purchased to ensure Australia’s amphibious capability following the decommissioning of HMAS Manoora.

Additional Bushmasters to support our Troops

Mr Smith and Mr Clare also announced that Defence has signed a contract with Thales Australia for an additional 101 Bushmaster vehicles.

Mr Smith and Mr Clare announced on May 12 the Government had approved the purchase of the additional Bushmasters.

The vehicles, together with associated support, are being purchased at a total cost of $133 million.

This is for the vehicles and fitting Middle East Area of Operations protection kits including protected weapons stations.

It also includes funding to evaluate a range of enhancements to the Bushmaster vehicle to increase the level of protection it provides to ADF personnel. If these enhancements are viable they may be applied to the 101 vehicles.

The Bushmaster is an outstanding combat vehicle that has unquestionably saved Australian lives in Afghanistan.

The addition of these vehicles will take the total number of Bushmasters ordered by Defence to 838.

The vehicles will be manufactured at Thales Australia’s Bendigo facility and will be delivered over the next 18 months.

These vehicles are being procured to address operational requirements.

31 Bushmasters have been damaged beyond repair in recent years and their replacement plus a further 70 vehicles will support current and future operations.

Counter-rocket radar system rolls out to Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan

Mr Smith and Mr Clare also announced that Australia’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) radar had now been rolled out to a number of patrol bases and Forward Operating Bases (FOB) across Uruzgan Province.

The C-RAM system provides vital warning of impending rocket attacks and mortar attacks against bases, providing precious seconds for our people to take cover, rather than being exposed in the open.

On 1 February, Mr Smith and Mr Clare announced that the C-RAM system was in operation at the multi-national base Tarin Kowt, achieving its initial operating capability five months ahead of schedule.

The system will roll-out to more forward operating bases over the remainder of this year.

Defence Minister Smith said that during his visit to Afghanistan in April, Australian Defence Force (ADF) Commanders in Uruzgan reported that the C-RAM system was working well.

The provision of the C-RAM capability follows on from the Force Protection Review effected by former Minister for Defence Faulkner in 2009 and underlines the Government’s commitment to provide our troops with the best available equipment.

The Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare said the Government was continuing its investment in enhanced force protection capabilities for our troops in Afghanistan.

Since it began operation in December last year the C-RAM system has provided ten warnings against rocket and mortar attacks resulting in no ADF casualties.

Most recently, the C-RAM system successfully detected and provided warning against indirect fire attacks on the Tarin Kot base early on 12 June and again on 14 June.

Update on HMAS Tobruk

Mr Smith and Mr Clare also provided an update on the status of the HMAS Tobruk.

HMAS Tobruk has been docked in Sydney since 11 May while Defence undertakes scheduled maintenance to further assure the safety and reliability of the ship and to return it to 48 hours readiness notice.

During this maintenance process, survey work has been undertaken to ensure the ongoing serviceability of the ship’s equipment.

This survey work confirms that HMAS Tobruk is in a satisfactory material condition for a ship of its age.

However, the survey work has also identified that additional maintenance is necessary now to keep the ship in service. This includes work on the hull, the vehicle ramps, the propeller shaft and the overboard discharge piping system for stormwater.

Completing this work will extend the time necessary for HMAS Tobruk to remain in dock and to return it to 48 hours readiness notice.

It is expected that this additional work will be completed by the end of August. In order to ensure Australia has an amphibious capability while further work on HMAS Tobruk is undertaken, the Government has previously announced it would charter the long range support ship Aurora Australis from P&O Maritime Services from 8 May 2011 to 30 June 2011, with options for an extension up to a month.

To provide an amphibious transport capability until the end of July 2011, the Government has exercised the option to extend the lease of the Aurora Australis for an additional month until the end of July.

Defence has also agreed with the operator, P & O to further extend the Aurora Australis lease until the Tobruk re-enters service at the end of August.

Press release
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, Australia

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