• A schematic diagram of the Canberra Class Amphibious LHD - one of the two azipod propulsors can be clearly seen. Credit: Defence
    A schematic diagram of the Canberra Class Amphibious LHD - one of the two azipod propulsors can be clearly seen. Credit: Defence

Updated 11:13 Wednesday 29th March 2017

The Navy's Amphibious Heavy Lift ship HMAS Choules has been despatched to Queensland from Sydney yesterday as Tropical Cyclone Debbie bears down on Queensland while reports emerge of problems with the LHD azimuth pod propulsion systems.

Yesterday the ADF Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Binskin confirmed that Choules, the nominated HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) ship, had departed Sydney that morning and would head north to Queensland to be ready to support recovery efforts if required.

Meanwhile the ABC has reported that Navy's two Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) HMA ships Adelaide and Canberra are currently docked at Sydney's Garden Island Naval Base where maintenance crews are trying to identify and resolve issues with the LHDs' azipod propulsion system.

According to Defence the problem will take between seven and 10 days to address but it has had no impact on Navy meeting its operational requirements.

A statement provided by Defence to the ABC last night confirmed a propulsion issue had been identified on board HMAS Canberra during recent trials with military helicopters.

"As a prudent measure, the same inspections were conducted on HMAS Adelaide and identified emergent issues," the statement said.

"It is too early to determine the extent of this emergent work and Defence is working to identify the causes and develop a repair strategy."

HMAS Adelaide returned from sea yesterday morning prior to berthing at the naval base. One of the main capability requirements of the LHD class is HADR.

The LHDS are equipped with two electrically powered Siemens azimuth pods. The pods can be rotated a full 360 degrees and afford the large ships greater manouevrability, particularly at the low speeds normally experienced during amphibious operations.

Click here for a Siemens animation depicting the workings of a similar system.

Navy has issued a response to the ABC report, stating that “it ignores and appears not to understand the fact that the Amphibious Assault Ships HMA Ships Canberra and Adelaide are still in their operational test and evaluation period, and this is the period where issues such as the ones currently being addressed are found”.

The statement issued by Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, added the work being performed “is precisely why there is a delayed evaluation and introduction into service program to ensure all aspects of the operation of these ships is considered before they reach the Full Operational Capability (FOC)”.

VADM Barrett said HMAS Choules assumed duties as the on line (ready) ship to support any HADR requirements in mid-March. 

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