HMAS Wewak unloading or loading an Australian Army truck during Operation Bel Isi on Bougainville
|Namesake:||Wewak, Papua New Guinea|
|Builder:||Walkers Limited in Maryborough, Queensland|
|Laid down:||21 March 1972|
|Launched:||19 May 1972|
|Commissioned:||10 August 1973|
|Decommissioned:||11 December 2012|
|Motto:||"Do Not Yield"|
|Class and type:||Balikpapan-class landing craft heavy|
|Length:||44.5 m (146 ft)|
|Beam:||10.1 m (33 ft)|
|Propulsion:||Two GM Detroit 12v71 diesels|
|Speed:||9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)|
|Capacity:||180 tons of vehicle cargo or 400 soldiers|
|Armament:||two 0.50 inch machine guns|
Design and construction
The eight-vessel Balikpapan class was ordered as a locally manufactured replacement for the Australian Army's LSM-1-class landing ship medium and ALC 50 landing craft. They are 44.5 metres (146 ft) long, with a beam of 10.1 metres (33 ft), and a draught of 1.9 metres (6 ft 3 in). The landing craft have a standard displacement of 316 tons, with a full load displacement of 503 tons. They are propelled by two G.M. Detroit 6-71 diesel motors, providing 675 brake horsepower to the two propeller shafts, allowing the vessels to reach 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph). The standard ship's company is 13-strong. The Balikpapans are equipped with a Decca RM 916 navigational radar, and fitted with two 7.62 millimetres (0.300 in) machine guns for self-defence.
The LCHs have a maximum payload of 180 tons; equivalent to 3 Leopard 1 tanks, 13 M113 armoured personnel carriers 23 quarter-tonne trucks, or four LARC-V amphibious cargo vehicles. As a troop transport, a Balikpapan-class vessel can transport up to 400 soldiers between a larger amphibious ship and the shore, or embark 60 soldiers in six-berth caravans for longer voyages. The vessel's payload affects the range: at 175 tons of cargo, each vessel has a range of 1,300 nautical miles (2,400 km; 1,500 mi), which increases to 2,280 nautical miles (4,220 km; 2,620 mi) with a 150-ton payload, and 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km; 3,500 mi) when unladen. The flat, box-like keel causes the ships to roll considerably in other-than-calm conditions, limiting their ability to make long voyages.
Following the destruction of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy during the night of 24–25 December 1974, Wewak was deployed as part of the relief effort; Operation Navy Help Darwin. Wewak was the last of the 13 ships to join the operation; sailing from Brisbane on 2 January 1975, and arriving on 13 January.
Wewak was placed in reserve on 16 August 1985; one of three landing craft decommissioned for economic reasons. She was reactivated in late 2000, but only after lengthy delays, as during the intervening years, she had been used as a parts hulk for the other Balikpapans.
Decommissioning and Fate
The Philippine Navy has shown interest in acquiring the ship, after the Australian government donated 2 other sisterships, HMAS Brunei and HMAS Tarakan in 2015. It was later confirmed that the Philippine Navy is acquiring three more LCH from Australia, including ex-HMAS Wewak, at a token price.
- Gillett, Australian and New Zealand Warships since 1946, pp. 79, 125
- Wertheim (ed.), The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, p. 26
- Gillett, Australian and New Zealand Warships since 1946, p. 79
- "Balikpapan Class Heavy Landing Craft (LCH), Australia". Naval Technology. 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- Swinden, Heavy Lifting for Four Decades, p. 20
- Swinden, Heavy Lifting for Four Decades, p. 22
- "HMAS Wewak decommissioned". Department of Defence. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- "Australia to donate heavy landing craft to Philippines". IHS Jane's 360. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "Philippines edges closer to Australian landing craft procurement". IHS Jane's 360. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "Australia confirms Philippines' acquisition of three ex-RAN landing craft". IHS Jane's 360. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- Gillett, Ross (1988). Australian and New Zealand Warships since 1946. Brookvale, NSW: Child & Associates. ISBN 0-86777-219-0. OCLC 23470364.
- Wertheim, Eric, ed. (2007). The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World: Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems (15th ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-955-2. OCLC 140283156.
- "Disaster Relief — Cyclone Tracy and Tasman Bridge". Semaphore. Sea Power Centre. 2004 (14). December 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
- Swinden, Greg (April 2013). "Heavy Lifting for Four Decades: The Navy's Landing Craft Heavy". The Navy. Navy League of Australia. 75 (2): 20–24. ISSN 1322-6231.