Australia’s six new landing watercraft that are being built to use on Navy’s new amphibious ship fleet will be based at Ross Island Barracks in Townsville, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.
Senator Hill today visited Ross Island Barracks with Liberal Member for Herbert Peter Lindsay to inspect the home of the new LPA watercraft.
"Townsville is very important for Defence because of its strategic position and existing Defence infrastructure. The Howard Government is committed to build on Defence’s amphibious capabilities in northern Queensland," Senator Hill said.
"The introduction of bigger and more capable amphibious ships together with Townsville’s new MRH-90 troop lift helicopters and the new watercraft will significantly lift capabilities.
"The ability of the new troop lift helicopters and the new landing craft to work with the new amphibious ships at sea means that Townsville will soon play a much greater role in the important amphibious capabilities of the ADF in the future."
"The new watercraft capability will enable the Army in Townsville to deploy more tanks, vehicles, soldiers and supplies from ship to shore in a significantly shorter time than is currently possible with the existing capability. Last week Senator Hill visited Newcastle in New South Wales to see the progress on the construction of six new landing watercraft as part of a $32 million contract with ADI.
These lightweight vessels, to be built from aluminum and powered by two diesel engines and waterjet propulsion, will also improve the rate of unloading cargo by more than 30 per cent.
"The first watercraft has been on trial already and is due to be delivered to Townsville in October," Senator Hill said.
"The first two amphibious ships for the Navy are expected to be able to carry a thousand troops as well as six of the new troop lift helicopters on deck and up to another dozen helicopters underneath. The decision on the tender to build the two new amphibious ships will be decided next year.
The primary role of Ross Island Barracks is for Army logistic watercraft operations and training and is currently home to 11 LCM-8 landing craft.
Last month the Howard Government announced that the Army will be equipped with 12 new troop lift helicopters under a $1 billion project. The new MRH-90 aircraft will form an additional troop lift helicopter squadron for Townsville. The first is expected to be delivered in 2007, with all 12 aircraft expected by 2008.
Senator Hill said the Government is also committed to developing a helicopter simulator for Townsville to provide advanced simulated training for the new squadron.
"The new squadron is great news for Townsville. It is also likely to lead to the development of a strong aerospace industry in the region to support the introduction of the new helicopter," Senator Hill said.
"This would lead to exciting job opportunities for young people in the highly sought after aerospace sector."
The MRH-90 is the new generation of multi-role helicopters, equipped with state of the- art technology, a rear ramp that can be used to load small vehicles, a flexible cabin configuration, a full fly-by-wire flight control system and digital cockpit.