One of the Royal Australian Navy’s largest warships, HMAS Adelaide, has been dry-docked as naval engineers scramble to fix engine problems with the $1.5-billion vessel.
It is still unknown how long it will take to repair the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), which was only commissioned into service two-and-a-half years ago.
HMAS Adelaide’s sister ship HMAS Canberra also remains out of action, berthed at Sydney’s Garden Island Naval base.
“You don’t expect it when it’s a few years old. This is capability that we should be confident that we got the specifications right and it should be operational,” said David Smith from Professionals Australia, a union representing scientists and engineers in Defence.
“It’s incredibly significant given the billions of dollars we’re investing in naval capability.”
In March, the ABC revealed HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide had been sent to Garden Island after problems were identified with their propulsion systems.
Defence said there had been issues with the propulsion systems of HMAS Adelaide. (ABC News: Billy Cooper)
Defence is giving few details on the progress of the investigation and repair work.
“During first-of-class flight trials, Defence identified an emergent issue with the propulsion systems of HMAS Canberra. HMAS Adelaide was also inspected and there are indications of a similar issue,” the Defence Department said in a statement.
“Defence has adopted a deliberate and disciplined approach to resolve this problem early in the ships’ life.
“Defence engineers are working with Navantia, BAE Australia and Siemens to determine the nature of the issue, investigate the causes, and develop a repair strategy.”
The department said as a prudent measure it was determining the availability of potential spare parts, but it was “still too early to determine the extent of this emergent work”.
Some Defence insiders fear the engine issues on both ships will not be resolved before next month’s Talisman Sabre military exercises with the United States, but the department is refusing to speculate.
“Until the investigation has been completed and the scope of the required work is known, Defence is not in a position to answer questions around cost, liability, parts availability, time frames, and impacts on future exercises,” one insider said.
“HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide are scheduled to receive final operating capability at the end of this year.”