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Australian Army vessel commanders tour Landing Craft Medium prototype

Austal Head of Sales & Business Development – Defence Rob Jackson talking to Army representatives on-board a Guardian-class Patrol Boat being built by Austal. Photo: DAN MACBRIDE

The Australian Army’s first vessel commanders and industry representatives have toured a prototype of the Army’s future Landing Craft Medium in Western Australia.

The Australian Army’s first vessel commanders and industry representatives have toured a prototype of the Army’s future Landing Craft Medium in Western Australia.

The Australian Defence Force commanders toured the Henderson Shipyard facilities in Western Australia, viewing the vessel which is expected to provide independent littoral manoeuvre capability for the ADF.

The Landing Craft Medium is expected to perform independent shore-to-shore and ship-to-shore capability to enable movement and sustainment of the amphibious joint force over extended ranges in the restricted littoral and riverine environments.


In addition, the vessel will also be interoperable with the Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock and landing ship dock.

The group has previously been selected for the Accelerated Maritime Officer Training Program, run by the Royal Australian Navy and conducted in Sydney and Perth from January this year.

Late last year, Australia-based shipbuilding defence prime Austal signed a memorandum of understanding with NSW shipbuilder Birdon to jointly deliver the Australian Department of Defence Landing Craft-Medium (LC-M) Project.

Under the agreement, both companies will develop Defence shipbuilding capability in Western Australia to deliver the LC-M craft, jointly develop a costed proposal for the LC-M Project and explore potential Defence shipbuilding opportunities.

In addition, the federal government announced a heads of agreement to establish a strategic shipbuilding agreement between Austal and the Commonwealth. Austal was named as the preferred vessel constructor, while Birdon was selected as the preferred designer for the LC-M Project.

“Austal has a very good track record of working effectively with third-party vessel designers and we look forward to working with Birdon to develop the MOU into a more substantive partnership so that we can deliver a capable and cost-effective LC-M program for the Army,” according to Paddy Gregg, Austal Limited chief executive officer.

The initiative will deliver a secure pipeline of work at Henderson, providing industry with greater certainty and helping to secure long-term skilled jobs, infrastructure investment, and productivity in the local economy, according to Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy.

“This partnership represents a new approach to Australian shipbuilding and reflects the Albanese government’s steadfast commitment to delivering a future made in Australia,” he said.

“A continuous pipeline of work and an efficient, streamlined approach will not only benefit the delivery of Defence capability but create industry confidence to invest in a highly capable shipbuilding workforce in Western Australia.

“Australian industry can compete with the best in the world, but for too long has suffered the boom bust cycle of shipbuilding, undermining productivity and workforce retention. This ends with this strategic partnership.”

Western Australian Minister for Defence Industry Paul Papalia said the move has provided Western Australia with a voice on the national defence industry stage.

“Continuous naval shipbuilding in Western Australia is something we have fought for since 2017,” he said.

“Western Australia is now recognised as being a key contributor to the nation’s defence strategy.

“The Cook Labor government will continue its efforts to diversify WA, grow the economy, and build a more resilient, sustainable state.”

Landing craft medium will come into service in 2027 and landing craft heavy from 2028, according to information published by the Department of Defence.

“We’ve been selected to be among the first that will crew and command these vessels. When I signed up, this wasn’t on the cards, so it’s incredible things are moving so quickly,” according to Accelerated Maritime Officer course selectee Captain Gemma Chmielewski.

“I know we’re all excited to be involved with a program in its early stages - to be front and centre for Army’s evolution in this space.”

Head Land Capability Major General Richard Vagg said Army had a long history of littoral manoeuvre operations.

“Army has been operating in the littoral environment since before Gallipoli and these vessels are the next step in Army’s transformation for littoral manoeuvre operations by sea, land and air,” Major General Vagg said.

“They will significantly advance our ability to conduct operations that influence our northern approach, support our regional partners and protect our national interests.

“Our people look forward to working closely with our Navy counterparts to build their maritime skills.”

Landing craft medium, capable of sailing 500 nautical miles, will be designed to carry one Abrams tank, or one Redback infantry fighting vehicle, or four HIMARS launchers.

Landing craft heavy, capable of sailing 2500 nautical miles, will be designed to carry six Abrams tanks, or 11 Redback IFVs or 26 HIMARS launchers.

They will eventually be complemented by amphibious vehicles and close support craft to deploy and sustain land forces to beach landing sites or ports in conjunction with other ADF air and maritime assets.

Army’s littoral capability will ensure it continues to play a vital role in responding to strategic challenges, and enhance Australia’s capacity to conduct military partner engagement, rapid assistance and humanitarian and disaster relief operations in the region.

*This article was updated on January 15 with additional information from Defence.*

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