IT was a case of back to the future today when Prime Minister Julia Gillard officially named one of two new Landing Helicopter Dock ships, HMAS Canberra in a traditional Navy ceremony at Williamstown in Victoria today.
This is the third Australian Navy ship to bear the proud name Canberra.
HMAS Canberra was originally named in 1927, serving the name for the original HMAS Canberra I.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was joined by Minister for Defence Stephen Smith along with the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, and the Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Ray Griggs, for this special occasion.
The Spanish Minister for Defence, Mr Pedro Morenés Eulate, was also in attendance.
The new LHD was named by Mrs Vickie Coates, wife of the late Rear Admiral Nigel Coates AM, RAN, who served a distinguished career in the Navy and sadly passed away in June 2010.
“Today’s ceremony reinforces the importance of the naming tradition and the pride that is entrenched in a ship’s name,” said the Prime Minister.
“The naming of a ship is an important and very special occasion. The Canberra name carries with it decades of spirit, courage and distinguished service inherited from all personnel who served in Canberra’s (I) and (2) and the USS Canberra.”
Canberra (I) was a County Class heavy cruiser which served with distinction until she was heavily damaged and sunk during the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942.
In 1943 the United States Navy (USN) named a Baltimore class heavy cruiser the USS Canberra in recognition of the valour displayed by the HMAS Canberra during the Battle of Savo Island, the United States President Franklin Roosevelt wished to commemorate the Australian ship’s loss by naming a US ship in her honour.
The USS Canberra is the only USN warship named for a foreign warship or a foreign capital city.
Canberra (II) was a Guided Missile Frigate and participated in numerous operations, the most recent being Operation Slipper as part of the international coalition against terrorism. Canberra (II) was decommissioned in 2009.
Nu Ship Canberra has been proudly assigned the “02” pennant number, the same as Canberra (II).
The naming of Canberra marked an important milestone in bringing the LHDs one step closer to service.
Ms Gillard said LHDs will deliver the most sophisticated air-land-sea amphibious capability in the world and will greatly strengthen the Australian Navy’s delivery of sea power.
“These new platforms will be able to land a force of more than 2000 personnel by helicopter and water craft, along with all their weapons, ammunition, vehicles and stores – this capability is a quantum leap for Navy and the wider Australian Defence Force (ADF).”
The Canberra class LHDs are bigger than Australia’s last aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and will be more than 230 metres long, 27.5 metres high and weigh around 27,500 tonnes.
The hull of the new Canberra Class LHDs was designed by Spanish company Navantia. BAE Systems is completing the build with the superstructure, combat and communications systems in Williamstown.
Nu Ship Canberra is due to be accepted into Navy service in the first quarter of 2014. The second LHD is due to be named this time next year for accepting into Navy service in 2016.