Australia to buy amphibious military transport ship, aircraft

CANBERRA, March 17 Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:54pm EDT

CANBERRA, March 17 (Reuters) - Australia will buy a large amphibious warship from Britain and a C-17 wide-body military transport plane from Boeing to expand its fleet, which is currently on earthquake relief operations in Japan, the defence minister said on Thursday.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the navy would buy a surplus Royal Navy Bay Class heavy amphibious lift vessel, to complement two 27,000-tonne helicopter assault carriers on order from Spain and entering service in 2015.

Australia's air force would also buy an extra Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport because of its usefulness in disaster relief, both at home and after the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, Smith said.

The 16,000-tonne Bay Class landing ships are capable of carrying 350 troops and large military helicopters. Britain recently noncommissioned one vessel in its fleet under the government's 2010 Strategic and Defence Review.

Two carriers already under construction by Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for Australia's navy will each be capable of carrying 1,000 troops and up to 24 helicopters, as well as armoured vehicles and tanks.

They are part of a multi-billion-dollar upgrade of Australia's military that includes new air defence destroyers, up to 100 stealth fighter aircraft, helicopters, tanks, long-range cruise missiles and 12 new submarines costing $25 billion. (Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Ed Davies)

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