Australia has successfully bid for RFA Largs Bay, which was declared surplus to requirements in the UK Government’s 2010 Defence Strategic Review. The five-year old Bay class landing ship was purchased for £65 million (approximately A$100 million).
The acquisition is something of a boon for the Royal Australian Navy at a time when the material state of their current amphibious ships is in disarray. The bargain buy will help ensure they sustain an amphibious capability up until the introduction of new Canberra class helicopter carriers from 2014. The government is also looking at further acquisitions or the leasing of commercial amphibious vessels, including catamarans or trimarans, until the new ships are ready.
Largs Bay left lay-up in mid-April and sailed to A&P Falmouth for overhaul and modifications. She is expected to arrive in Sydney by December and become operational in early 2012. Her new name has yet to be announced, if indeed she is renamed, as Largs Bay is also a suburb of Adelaide.
The ship has a proven capability, having provided humanitarian relief as part of the international response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Her cargo capacity is the equivalent of that of the RAN’s entire amphibious fleet.