Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR July.August2010 Contents 50 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
[LHD COMMUNICATIONS SUITE
hen the RAN’s new ‘Canberra’ Class LHDs (Landing
Helicopter Dock) reach full operational service around
the middle of this decade, they will give the ADF a
hitherto undreamt of capability for force projection and
amphibious assault. Just as importantly they will give
the Australian nation the ability to provide humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief in the Asian region on a scale until now the sole preserve of
the United States Navy.
While the parallel Air Warfare Destroyer project has to date received
more attention, the 2 LHDs are just as important – if not more so – in
providing the entire ADF, not just Navy, with a quantum leap in capability.
Designed to replace HMAS Manoora and HMAS Kanimbla – themselves
second hand USN platforms – the new LHDs will be three times larger and
will be able to embark more than twice as many troops.
The ‘Canberra’ Class will be the largest ships ever operated by the RAN
at 28,000 tonnes – by comparison the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne
was 18,000 – but of greater significance are the command, control and
communications systems on board. These will allow the ships to be
floating command centres able to co-ordinate the activities of Army, Navy
and the RAAF over a wide area. More than that, the ships will also be fully
interconnected with allied forces, most importantly the USN.
The essential element in all of this is the ship’s communications suite,
which will be more capable than those on the ‘Hobart’ Class Air Warfare
To use the jargon, the LHDs will not only be ships, they will be massive
“nodes” in the forthcoming fully networked ADF. The challenge of
conducting large scale amphibious operations is new to Australia and
co-ordinating the 6 embarked helicopters – with or without embarked
troops - assorted watercraft, other ships, nearby aircraft and possibly UAVs
requires considerable resources.
To make all of this possible, Australia has selected L-3 to provide the
integrated communications suite, which will interface with a variant of
Saab’s well-known and proven 9LV Command & Control system already
on the ANZAC frigates. Even though L-3 is a relatively new corporate
entity created in 1997 from some of the non-core businesses of the Martin
Marietta / Lockheed merger, its pedigree goes back more than 100 years.
The integrated communications part of L-3 started life as the Victor Talking
Machine Company and then morphed into RCA, then General Electric
before entering the modern era in 1993 when acquired by Martin Marietta.
A factor influencing the choice of L-3 for the ‘Canberra’ Class is the
company’s track record with the USN, where its systems are on more
than 100 platforms - including a large number of submarines - but most
importantly Arleigh Burke Destroyers (where it provides part of the
communications suite) and LPD-17 amphibious assault ships. They are
also part of the Austal / General Dynamics offers (the 2 companies have
de-merged their bid) for the Littoral Combat Ship project, currently under
The ten LPD-17s on order for the USN – half have been delivered - have
some similarity to the ‘Canberra’ Class, though are slightly smaller at
25,000 tonnes and consequently will carry fewer troops and aerial assets.
Where they are vastly different is in their very ambitious sensor and self-
defence weapons mix, reflecting the possibility of the Marines needing to
deploy in extremely hostile environments. There has been some criticism
of the project, though this has related mainly to poor quality workmanship
on the first few hulls and their propulsion and mechanical systems
rather than the electronic systems. Nevertheless, the LPD-17s will be the
backbone of USN / US Marine Corps operations in the future. L-3 has been
able to use their experience on this program to reduce the risk for the ADF
on the ‘Canberra’ Class.
L-3 is providing complete integrated communications solutions for both
of the US Coast Guard’s latest ships, the large National Security Cutter (or
Legend Class - the first two of eight planned are in commission) and the
smaller Fast Response Cutter (or Sentinel Class – the first of 58 planned is
As well as having numerous systems in service with the USN and
USCG, L-3 has also undertaken work with the navies of Australia and
Designed to replace HMAS Manoora and
HMAS Kanimbla – themselves second hand
USN platforms – the new LHDs will be three
times larger and will be able to embark more
than twice as many troops
A transformational capability
USS San Antonio (LPD-17) patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
Credit: US Marine Corps / Patrick M. Johnson-Campbell
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