Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR OCT 2016 Contents 37
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 25 | OCT 2016
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Operational test and evaluation trials to integrate the Australian Army’s M1A1
Abrams main battle tank (MBT) with the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN)
Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship have
got off to a slower than expected start, as DTR reports.
Landing craft trials with
M1A1 Abrams prove tricky
Given the significant weight and size of both the M1A1 Abrams and
M88A2 HERCULES, the trial in May aimed to develop, Defence said, the
necessary procedures for embarking the vehicles across the LHD’s ‘steel
beach’ in the well dock onto the LLC as part of the Naval Operational Test
and Evaluation process.
Despite the difficulties, the trial provided an opportunity to collect data
to model against the craft’s stability and structural models to better
understand the operational and safety limits of the LLC in these load
configurations. This data is currently being analysed by Defence with
assistance from the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, Tasmania,
and will be used to support further trials.
Spain has already undertaken trials of the LCM-1E carrying a MBT, in this
case a Spanish Army Leopard 2A6E, which also has a combat weight of
around 63 tonnes. One of the photographs from the 2013 trials shows the
craft transporting the Leopard 2A6E in harbour-like waters, with the other
image showing the trial being conducted in a protected inlet in pond-like
conditions. None of the photographs show the tank being transported
across open or rough seas.
Interestingly, the latter photograph appears to show RAN personnel
participating in or at least observing the trials.
A WEIGHTY ISSUE
the accuracy of the measured trim during the trials and whether
these were in accordance with the RAN’s authorised trim
and stability ‘handbook’ for the LLC. Amazingly, neither the
Australian Army, US Army nor US Marine Corps has an accurate
figure for the CoG of the M1A1 Abrams with the gun pointing
forward (the tank must be landed gun-forward otherwise the
turret bustle impedes driver escape).
THE TRIALS COMMENCED with HMAS Adelaide successfully
loading an M1A1 Abrams and a M88A2 Heav y Equipment
Recovery Combat Utility Lifting Extraction System (HERCULES)
while alongside in Townsville on 24 May this year.
DTR understands, however, that harbour trials of an LHD
Landing Craft (LLC; also known as the LCM-1E) carrying an
LEFT: An M1A1 Abrams MBT disembarks from a LLC onto the steel
beach of HMAS Adelaide during the initial May 2016 trials.
ABOVE: A 63 tonne M88A2 HERCULES loading onto HMAS
Adelaide via one of the starboard ramps. Image: Supplied
ABOVE: An LCM-1E (‘LHD Landing Craft’ in Australian service)
transporting a Spanish Army Leopard 2A6E MBT in 2013 trials.
LEFT: A Spanish Navy LCM-1E conducting trials with a Leopard
2A6E MBT in the most favourable sea conditions imaginable.
Despite being of similar combat weight, the differences in
weight distribution and CoG between the Leopard 2A6E and
M1A1 Abrams have made the Royal Australian Navy’s LLC trials
perhaps not as straightforward as had been anticipated.
LEFT: A pair of LLC in the
well dock of HMAS Adelaide
loaded with an M1A1 Abrams
(left) and M88A2 HERCULES
for the trials. Image: Supplied
M1A1 Abrams had to be cut short when it became clear that
weight distribution and centre-of-gravity (CoG) issues had not
been fully explored, leading to craft instability with the tank on
A Defence spokesperson told DTR that the trial did nonetheless
prove the ability of the LHD to operationally load and manoeuvre
the two vehicles on the heav y vehicle deck. The trial also validated
procedures for the safe manoeuvre of the vehicles at the Townsville
berth, handling across the ramp door and within the ship, and
stowage of the vehicles before proceeding to sea.
The trial also facilitated the separate loading of an M1A1
Abrams and M88A2 HERCULES onto the LLC in the well dock of
the ship for the first time, with the intent of validating observations
of similar evolutions by the Armada in Spain. Observations during
the Australian trial did not correspond with those expected
from the Spanish experience however, so the trial was suspended
pending technical investigation of the discrepancies.
According to informed sources there were issues surrounding
SPAIN HAS ALREADY
UNDERTAKEN TRIALS OF
THE LCM-1E CARRYING
A MBT WHICH HAS A
COMBAT WEIGHT OF
AROUND 63 TONNES.
The Navy Technical Bureau will now undertake an engineering
trial that will involve measuring the LLC empty, conducting a test
with a mid-weight vehicle of known weight and CoG (for instance
Bushmaster), then testing the measured trim against computer
model predictions. If these measurements validate the prediction,
DTR is informed, the correct position of the M88A2 HERCULES
on the LLC will be calculated and then tested first, after which a
test of the M1A1 Abrams will be assessed.
The trials are expected to resume this month (October) and
continue into November.
Against this background, correctly determining the position
for the M1A1 Abrams and M88A2 HERCULES on the LLC deck
to provide the most ideal ride characteristics across a range of sea
conditions is not expected to be a ‘show-stopper’, with the initial
trials at least providing some clarification of positioning and tie-
It is likely, however, that ship-to-shore transport of the fighting
vehicle at the core of the Army’s combat power will only be
possible in the most favourable if not benign sea conditions.
In addition, it is notable that other amphibious powers use
landing craft of two to three times the displacement of the LLC to
land their MBTs.
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