Friday 21 Sep 2018 | 12:54 | SYDNEY
Friday 21 Sep 2018 | 12:54 | SYDNEY

LHDs: Integrating all our capabilities


Sam Roggeveen


13 August 2008 15:34

Hugh White is right. If you wanted ships devoted solely to humanitarian tasks you wouldn't go for the expensive amphibious ships (LHDs) our Navy has selected; you'd go for a much cheaper civilian design. (I note that the UK Royal Navy has found something of a happy medium in this regard with HMS Ocean, an amphibious ship built largely to commercial standards to reduce costs.)

But Hugh's argument recalls the old joke about the tourist driving around the Irish countryside. He stops to ask a local man the way to Dublin, who replies, 'Well, I wouldn't start from here'. My argument about bringing other disaster-relief agencies into the management and operation of the LHDs (not 'passing' the ships entirely to a non-military agency, as Hugh claims I argued) rests on the assumption that the ships have been ordered and that it's too late to back out. So that's our starting point, whether we like it or not.

I agree with Hugh that it is folly to think Australia would ever launch amphibious operations from these ships against anything other than lightly-armed adversaries, but that surely reinforces my point. My proposal to get disaster relief agencies much more closely involved in how these ships are managed and operated should still allow Navy to prepare for that task. Who knows, it might even help. Hugh says 'amphibious stabilisation operations are a job for the military', but civilian agencies and NGOs get involved very quickly too, so doesn't it make sense to integrate them from the start?