BMT and DNV partner on CAIMEN capability to meet Australian Army amphibious requirements

CAIMEN
An artist’s rendering of BMT’s CAIMEN-Large design. The design is optimised to meet the Australian Army’s Landing Craft – Heavy programme requirement.

BMT and DNV have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to accelerate development of BMT’s CAIMEN-Large landing craft to meet the Australian Army’s Landing Craft – Heavy (LC-H) capability requirement. The MoU signing supports BMT’s latest foray into developing future amphibious operations capability.

Both organisations bring global backgrounds, BMT as a maritime design and technical consultancy, and DNV as a classification society.

In a statement released in late April, BMT said “Under this MoU, DNV will work with BMT throughout the process of tailoring our CAIMEN-Large [design], to meet the Australian Army’s future requirements.”

The statement added that the partnering between BMT as the design house and DNV as the classification society will help enhance the design maturity of the Australian variant of the CAIMEN landing craft, will embed design standards into CAIMEN through technical assurance, and will assist in identifying and managing technical risk in order to minimise schedule impacts.

The LC-H programme – situated within the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF’s) wider Littoral Manoeuvre Programme, which is focused on rapid deployment and sustainment of mobile forces across the Indo-Pacific region – includes core requirements to extend operational reach with, and logistics support for, heavy equipment loads including six Abrams tanks or 11 infantry fighting vehicles over ranges out to 2,500 n miles.

Following the 2023 Defence Strategic Review (DSR), the LC-H programme was identified as a critical upgrade priority, to provide complementary amphibious capability alongside the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) two Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, and Bay-class landing ship dock (LSD) vessel HMAS Choules.

The LC-H procurement programme is currently in the design and decision phases. The Australian government is seeking to streamline and accelerate the procurement approach, including through engaging with both established ship builders and ship designers, in order to deliver the first heavy landing craft around 2028.

According to BMT, CAIMEN-Large offers enhanced flexibility and versatility in shore-to-shore operations, covering complex littoral missions from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) support to amphibious assaults. In the latter context, the statement added, the design offers augmented operational capabilities in terms of supporting the ADF’s broad focus on strengthening littoral amphibious capabilities.

BMT has extensive experience in developing and supporting naval platforms that contribute to amphibious operations. For example, it has developed the ELLIDA Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS) concept. It has also been involved in the conversion of the UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship Argus, which now supports amphibious operations; and in delivering sustainment and upgrades for Choules.

With its design focus on covering littoral operations ranging from HADR to amphibious assault, “CAIMEN provides an optimal balance of speed, range, payload capacity, and seakeeping abilities, specifically tailored to meet the strategic needs of the Australian Army and adaptable/scalable for international forces,” Graeme Nayler, BMT’s Regional Managing Director for Australia and the APAC region, told Armada International in a written interview in early May. “This vessel is a significant evolution within the growing CAIMEN family, designed to address the complexities of amphibious assault and disaster response.”

The CAIMEN family – whose various designs range from 28m through to 115m in length – is designed to meet diverse operational needs, spanning high-speed manoeuvres to heavy cargo deployment, Nayler continued. Some of these operational needs, like beaching and un-beaching activities, provide challenging design requirements. Strongpoints in the CAIMEN design include robustness, adaptability, and capacity to support long-range logistics movements and scalable force projection requirements, underscored by a highly certified approach to technical assurance, Nayler added.

The ADF operates various amphibious capabilities, deployed across its services and including – at the centre of many ADF amphibious activities – the RAN’s two Canberra-class LHDs.

CAIMEN-Large complements and enhances the Canberra-class capabilities, Nayler argued. “[It] supports significant littoral capabilities through its advanced shore-to-shore amphibious assault and disaster response operations, enabling effective and scalable force projection and logistics support over long ranges without the need for established and/or stationary port facilities.”

Here, Nayler highlighted CAIMEN’s capacity to conduct rapid deployment and retrieval of vehicles and personnel from beachheads and austere locations ashore, which – he added – complements the LHD’s strategic ‘defensive and rescue’ mobility requirement.

As regards the BMT/DNV partnership, Nayler said the CAIMEN-Large Australian variant design was moving forward by aligning with class requirements, and was demonstrating its design standard by reflecting DNV assurance parameters. Overall, he said, “This collaboration facilitates an advanced, risk-mitigated approach, ensuring technical precision from the outset.”

by Dr. Lee Willett