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San Diego-based Canberra will become first US warship commissioned in an allied country

The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Canberra (LCS 30). (Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Faram/U.S. Navy/TNS)

The San Diego-based littoral combat ship Canberra will travel to Australia this summer where it will become the first American warship to be commissioned in an allied country, according to the Navy.

The commissioning will occur on July 22 at the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Base East in Sydney. It will mark the moment when the Canberra becomes an active member of the American fleet.

The ceremony also represents the outgrowth of a long, fruitful and deepening relationship between the two countries that goes back decades.

During World War II, Australia served as a forward operating base for U.S forces in the Pacific. The assets included a newly-built American cruiser that was named after Canberra, the capital of Australia.

Canberra helped win many fights during the war, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The cruiser was taken out of service late in the war but was later recommissioned and became one of the American ships that was sent to blockade Cuba in 1962 after a spy plane revealed that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles on the island.

Later in the 1960s, Canberra deployed to Vietnam five times from its homeport in San Diego. The ship was decommissioned for a second and final time in 1970.

The close ties between the U.S. and Australia have surfaced many times over the years. That relationship was on public display in March when President Joe Biden and the prime ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom met in San Diego to announce that they would collectively work to provide Australia with more submarines. The effort is meant to counter a military build-up by China in the Indo-Pacific.

“I can think of no better way to signify our enduring partnership with Australia than celebrating the newest U.S. Navy warship named for Australia’s capital city,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said last week.

Design-wise, new littoral combat ship, or LCS, has little in common with its predecessor.

The first Canberra was a 673-foot Baltimore-class cruiser that initially featured an array of powerful 8-inch guns, making the heavily crewed ship a front-line combatant. The new Canberra is a 418-foot Independence-class trimaran vessel that is comparatively lightly armed and is operated by a small crew on specialized missions in near-shore and open-ocean waters, often by itself.

San Diego is currently home to more than a dozen LCS vessels.


© 2023 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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