Navy commissions warship named for Australia’s capital city in Sydney
Stars and Stripes July 25, 2023
A star-spangled kangaroo adorned an Independence-class littoral combat ship when it became the first U.S. Navy vessel to be commissioned in Australia.
The USS Canberra was commissioned Saturday at the Australian navy’s Fleet Base East in Sydney. The dockside ceremony coincided with the start of the biennial, multinational Talisman Sabre drills, involving more than 30,000 personnel training Down Under until Aug. 4.
Video posted online by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service showed Canberra’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Will Ashley, reporting the ship ready, and ship sponsor Marise Payne, a former Australian foreign affairs minister, giving the order to officers and crew to “man our ship and bring her to life.”
The warship is destined to serve throughout the Indo-Pacific with one of America’s closest allies, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said at the ceremony. Guests included U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Richard Marles and U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday.
"I am confident that wherever USS Canberra is sailing, and whatever challenges her crew may face, they are ready, as reinforced by this warship’s motto: 'Can Do,'" del Toro said.
Canberra departed Naval Base San Diego, its homeport, on June 13, visiting American Samoa and Fiji before arriving in Sydney, U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement Saturday.
The Independence-class littoral combat ships USS Jackson, USS Manchester, USS Oakland and USS Mobile are also operating in the Indo-Pacific, according to the statement.
“Today marks a proud moment which our Royal Australian Navy is privileged to share alongside our allies and friends in the United States Navy,” Australian navy Vice Adm. Mark Hammond said at the commissioning. “The connection between our navies, forged in battle during the Second World War, is reflected in the name USS Canberra.”
Canberra is the second Navy ship named for Australia’s capital. The first, a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser, commissioned on Oct. 14, 1943, was named in honor of the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, lost at the Battle of Savo Island in World War II.
Independence-class littoral combat ships are fast vessels that operate near shore and in open ocean to support forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence missions, according to the statement.
However, the ships have been criticized as outdated in a world where conflict with well-armed potential adversaries such as China and Russia is a growing concern.
“The LCS is on trend to meet design requirements for the [mine counter measures] and [surface warfare] missions as they were established 20 years ago,” states a Navy report cited in a Politico story published June 15, 2022. “At issue is the warfighting contribution those capabilities will provide in a changed strategic environment.”
The Navy wants 21 littoral combat ships, including 15 Independence-class vessels, built by Austal USA in Alabama. That’s down from 50-plus ships planned in the early 2000s, Politico reported.
The latest vessels cost around half a billion dollars each, almost twice as much as their original estimates, the report said.
“LCS has military value,” the Navy report states, but “it has less military value than other platforms if employed in a high-end fight with China, in the Pacific.”