VIDEO: USS Canberra Commissions in Rare Overseas Ceremony

July 22, 2023 8:57 AM
U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard and the Royal Australian Navy ceremonial guard line up for a photo op shortly before the commissioning ceremony for the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Canberra (LCS-30) in Sydney, Australia July 22, 2023. DoD Photo

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Leaders of the U.S. Navy joined their Australian counterparts on a windy winter day at the ancestral home of the Royal Australian Navy to welcome USS Canberra (LCS-30) to the American fleet.

Moored at the RAN naval base HMAS Kuttabul in the middle of Sydney harbor, Littoral Combat Ship Canberra (LCS-30), was commissioned in a rare overseas ceremony on Saturday.

The LCS’ commissioning was a “celebration” and demonstration of the alliance between Australia and the United States, Australia Governor-General David Hurley said at the ceremony. It is a “very very visible example of our nations’ shared history, contemporary partnership and commitment to the future… [all] which is now honored in the name Canberra,” he said.

Canberra is the second Navy ship to bear the name of Australia’s capital city. The ship’s namesake, HMAS Canberra (D33), sunk while fighting alongside U.S. forces during the Battle of Savo Island in World War II. As a result of Canberra’s actions during the battle, Marines of the 1st Marine Division were able to continue the fight on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. In recognition of HMAS Canberra’s sacrifice to protect U.S. Forces, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the under-construction cruiser USS Pittsburgh to be renamed USS Canberra (CA-41).

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said that while the world is very different to the 1940s, when the first USS Canberra (CA-70) was commissioned, Australia and the United States are once again facing “significant challenges” in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We, along with our allies and partners around the world, are facing significant challenges in every environment that we operate,” he said. “The People’s Republic of China continues the rapid expansion of its navy, leveraging its maritime organizational strength to coerce and intimidate its neighbors into accepting illegitimate maritime claims.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday speaks with Australian deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Australian Chief of Navy Vice Adm. Mark Hammond, during the opening ceremony for exercise Talisman Sabre aboard HMAS Canberra in Sydney, Australia, July 21, 2023. US Navy Photo

LCS Canberra will play a critical role in defending the maritime commons which are so critical to both nations, Del Toro said.

“This ship before us, along with HMAS Canberra, and our combined Naval fleet play a crucial role in securing our ability to conduct unencumbered maritime trade across the globe, promoting the wealth and strength of our two nations, along with those of our allies and partners.”

While Adm. Mike Gilday, the outgoing chief of naval operations, said that the ship will closely integrate with the Royal Australian Navy. He did not go so far as to provide a timeline for its first deployment.

“Today, we commissioned USS Canberra into service, not just part of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One, not just part of the United States Pacific Fleet. Today, we commissioned this ship into service as a combat unit that will integrate with the Australian fleet and with the combined maritime force of allies and partners who stand united across the entire Indo-Pacific,” he said.

The commissioning ceremony comes as the U.S. and Australia are formalizing deeper security ties as part of the AUKUS technology-sharing agreement. In the next several years, U.S. and U.K. Royal Navy nuclear submarines will forward deploy to western Australia with the goal of the RAN operating their own Virginia-class submarines bought from the U.S.

USS Canberra sails into Sydney Harbour prior to her commissioning. Royal Australian Navy Photo

For Canberra In the short term, the LCS will return home to San Diego. There, it will be fitted with specialist anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and mine countermeasure (MCM) systems before leaving on its first deployment, USNI News understands.

Both the Blue and Gold crews will also complete various remaining certifications ahead of entering a standard deployment cycle, which will likely include a rotational deployment to Destroyer Squadron Seven (DESRON 7), based out of Singapore, USNI News understands.

Cmdr. Bobby Barber, commander of USS Canberra Gold Crew, told USNI News that he’s “hopeful” a deployment will take place soon.

In the longer term, continued uncertainty about the fate of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships means that the vessel may or may not see out its full lifespan. In June, the House Armed Services Committee authorized the Navy to decommission two of Canberra’s sister ships, USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Montgomery (LCS-8), after less than 10 years of service.

Wherever Canberra operates it will carry a little bit of Australia wherever it goes. During the ceremony, Vice Adm. Mark Hammond, chief of the Royal Australian Navy, said that he had given permission for Canberra to sail with a modified version of the Red Kangaroo which adorns all Australian warships as a funnel emblem. He also confirmed that, for as long as Canberra is in service, at least one Australian officer or sailor will be aboard due to a permanent exchange program.

Adm. Michael Gilday, 32nd Chief of Naval Operations, and Australian Vice Adm. Chief of Navy Mark Hammond applaud while U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Aiyanah Cruz and Australia Navy Able Seaman Matilda Brown unveil a kangaroo-shaped funnel emblem that will be mounted aboard USS Canberra (LCS-30) during the ship’s commissioning ceremony in Sydney, Australia July 22, 2023. DoD Photo

The Red Kangaroo, Hammond said, was originally adopted by the Royal Australian Navy to distinguish it from the Royal Navy. Gifting the symbol to Canberra, was Australia’s way of making an “indelible mark” on the historic commissioning ceremony.

“There will always be an Australian sailor or officer posted to this ship,” he said.
“An Australian Navy lieutenant is part of the ship’s company today and all of you, when you look to the superstructure you will see your own special Australian kangaroo.”

Benjamin Felton

Benjamin Felton is a freelance defense journalist based in Canberra, Australia.

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