Canberra, Australia (UPI) May 19, 2011
Australia is going ahead with the purchase of an amphibious helicopter landing dock ship after completing sea trials to determine the state of the vessel.
The Australian government signed a letter of intent with the U.K. government for the first two payments of $35.6 million each for the RFA Largs Bay.
Australia's Department of Defense announced the tentative deal at the beginning of April, saying the final cost would be around $103 million and the sale would be on condition of satisfactory sea trials.
A statement by the Minister for Defense Materiel Jason Clare said International shipping firm Teekay Shipping Australia "thoroughly inspected the ship prior to the submission of Australia's bid."
Teekay found that "the ship presents very well and from a technical point of view there are no major defects," he said.
Teekay also conducted the sea trials in April "and have provided an updated report that confirms their previous assessment," the statement said.
The ship weighs 16,000 tons and is about 577 feet long and 85 feet wide. Its flight deck has room for two large helicopters as well as around 150 light trucks and 350 troops.
Propulsion is through four Wartsila engines.
No helicopters are carried on board but the twin-spot flight deck can handle helicopters up to the size of Chinooks, as well as Merlin helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
The U.K. Department of Defense commissioned the Largs Bay in 2006. The vessel was built by Swan Hunter in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, northern England and named after Largs Bay in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was commissioned into the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in November 2006 and patrolled the seas around the British south Atlantic colony the Falkland Islands in 2008.
It also delivered relief supplies to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010.
The vessel was put up for sale after it became surplus to requirements as a result of the government's 2010 Defense Strategic Review.
In Australia the navy will commission the ship into the landing helicopter dock fleet for which two ships are under construction.
"The ship remains on track to arrive in Australia by the end of the year, in time for it to be operational in early 2012," the Australian government statement said.
The Largs Bay will operate alongside the navy's two Canberra class Landing Helicopter Dock ships now under construction -- the Canberra and the Adelaide.
In 2007 a Spanish design was selected over one by the French company Direction des Constructions Navales.
In Spain, Navantia is responsible for construction of the ships from the keel to the flight deck. The hulls will be transported to Australia for completion by BAE Systems Australia.
Work on the Canberra started in late 2008 and the hull was launched in early 2011. Work on the Adelaide started last year. Both ships are scheduled to enter service by the end of 2015.
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