|Builders:||National Steel and
Shipbuilding Company (original builders)
Forgacs Dockyard (conversion)
|Operators:||Royal Australian Navy|
|Succeeded by:||Canberra class large amphibious ship|
|Built:||1971 (for US Navy)|
|In service:||1999-2015 (predicted)|
|Class and type:||Modified Newport class tank landing ship|
|Type:||Landing Platform Amphibious|
|Length:||159.2 m (522 ft)|
|Beam:||21.2 m (70 ft)|
|Draught:||5.3 m (17 ft)|
|Propulsion:||6 × ALCO V16 diesel engines, 2,750 hp (2,051 kW) each driving two shafts (3 engines per shaft)|
|Speed:||22 knots (41 km/h)|
|Range:||14,000 nautical miles (26,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)|
|Boats and landing
|2 x LCM8 landing craft|
|Capacity:||400 embarked forces, 955 square metres of useable tank deck and cargo space|
|Complement:||23 naval Officers, 2 army Officers, 197 sailors, 18 soldiers|
|Armament:||1 × 20 mm Phalanx Mk 15 close–in weapon system, 6 × 12.7 mm Machine guns|
|Aircraft carried:||4 x Blackhawk or 3 x Sea King|
|Aviation facilities:||3 helicopter landing spots (2 aft, 1 forward)
Hangar for 4 helicopters
Capable of landing and launching Chinook helicopters
The Kanimbla class is a class of two amphibious transport ships in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN); HMAS Kanimbla and HMAS Manoora. Both ships were originally built as Newport class tank landing ships for the United States Navy. They were purchased by Australia in 1994.
In the early 1990s, the RAN initiated a procurement project to replace HMAS Jervis Bay with a dedicated training and helicopter support ship. Meeting the vague specifications of the project required a purpose-built vessel at an approximate cost of AU$500 million. The high cost of the project led to its cancellation by the Minister for Defence in 1993, with the instructions to find a cheaper alternative. At around the same time, the United States Navy (USN) began plans to decommission fifteen of their twenty Newport class tank landing ships, offering them for purchase by various countries.
In 1994, the RAN elected to purchase two Newports: US Ships Saginaw and Fairfax County for the combined price of AU$61 million (US$40 million), with the intention of converting each into a combined pocket helicopter carrier and amphibious warfare transport. Saginaw was to decommission in the US and be immediately recommissioned into the RAN as HMAS Kanimbla, and sailed to Australia by a RAN crew, while Fairfax County was to travel to Australia with a USN crew before decommissioning and recommissioning as HMAS Manoora. Prior to Saginaw’s decommissioning, a RAN crew was sent to Norfolk, Virginia for training aboard the vessel.
Saginaw was decommissioned on 28 June 1994, but instead of being immediately recommissioned as HMAS Kanimbla, it was announced at the decommissioning ceremony that the United States Congress had decided not to release the ships into foreign service. This last-minute move was part of a sale blockage for the fifteen surplus Newports to nine nations, and was caused by the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services in an attempt to pressure US President Bill Clinton on the perceived running-down of the USN's amphibious warfare capability, as well as the concerns of one Senator over human rights in Morocco (one of the other nations slated to acquire a ship). The sale to Australia was not approved until the start of August and Saginaw commissioned as HMAS Kanimbla on 29 August 1994.
After transferring into the RAN and arriving in Australia, Kanimbla and Manoora spent two years docked at Fleet Base East before they were moved to Forgacs Dockyard at Newcastle, New South Wales in June 1996, where they underwent conversion from tank landing ships to amphibious warfare transports. The conversion required the main features of the Newport class, the bow doors, derrick, and tank ramp, to be removed. A hangar for three Sea King or four Blackhawk helicopters was added, while the aft helicopter deck was reinforced. Chinook helicopters are able to land and take off from the aft deck, but cannot be carried for prolonged periods. The deck forward of the superstructure was converted to carry two LCM-8 landing craft, which are launched and recovered by a single 70 ton crane. When the LCM-8s are deployed, the area functions as a third helicopter landing spot. Accommodation was provided for up to 450 soldiers, while improved medical facilities and an upgraded galley were also installed.
The refit was planned to last from 1995 to 1996, with Manoora upgraded first. However, extensive corrosion was discovered in both ships. The refit cost for the two ships increased AU$400 million, with half of the funding taken from repair and refit allocations for other ships.