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September 16, 2010
NAVY NEWS: When you began this
story, what did you know about
Navy's amphibious project?
MICHAEL USHER: I actually had
no idea about the amphibious project
before we got going on the story.
Channel 9's 60 Minutes
program was on hand
to witness RIMPAC;
reporter Michael Usher
took the time to answer
some of our questions.
ON LOCATION: 60 Minutes
reporter Michael Usher on board
HMAS Kanimbla during RIMPAC.
Photo: ABIS James McDougall
159.2m / 21.2m
2x LCM8 landing craft
4x Black Hawk or 3x
Sea King helicopters
955m² tank deck space
240, 400 embarked
4x LCM1E landing
craft, 4x 7.2m RHIBs
14x medium-sized heli-
3290m² vehicle decks,
Approx 400, 1000
I must admit a lot of stories about
Navy funding tend to wash over me,
although I was aware the Navy had
received more funding.
I had no idea, however, that the
government had agreed to spend bil-
lions on the new ships and equipment.
You visited HMAS Kanimbla during
your visit -- tell us a little about the
I'm honoured to say it's my second
visit, and stay, on board Kanimbla.
The first time was during the 1993
Iraq conflict when she was patrolling
the Gulf. That was an incredibly tense
time, but we were welcomed on board
for a few days to file news reports.
This was just after the coalition
forces had stormed their way into Iraq.
For the first time we used satellite
phones and laptops to file live news
reports from Kanimbla's deck.
And just like then, were wel-
comed on board this time very warmly
by CAPT Tim Byles and his crew;
this time off the coast of Hawaii for
RIMPAC. We were offered terrific
access to Kanimbla to get a good look
at how she runs, and how the new
ships will radically increase the Navy's
I have to say, it always takes some
organising to get on board our Navy
ships, but once we're there the hospi-
tality -- in good times and bad -- has
always been excellent.
From HMAS Kanimbla you made
your way to US Bonhomme Richard.
What were the major differences
between the two ships?
We were very surprised at the dif-
ference in size. I'm going to be inter-
ested to see public reaction to these
ships when they sail through Sydney
heads for the first time. They're bigger
in every way. In fact I jokingly asked
if we had enough staff and equipment
to crew two of these sorts of ships, and
was reassured we do.
Bonhomme Richard is literally a
floating military city and the action on
deck was non-stop. I think it's going
to be an interesting cultural shift for
our Navy and Army. Our soldiers
are going to have find their sea legs
because a lot more of them are going
to be spending time on ships.
How do you think Australians will
react to our new capability?
I think Australians will be surprised
at how big the Adelaide and Canberra
will be. I think they'll be surprised that
they're new, built from scratch, and not
second hand from America, and I think
some will question why we need them.
They're an imposing vessel and
will dwarf other ships when they berth
in any Australian port. And they will
be a very strong show of strength when
they sail into our neighbours' waters.
That show of strength may be needed
to flex a bit of muscle, but it's most
likely more practical.
So how has your visit changed the
way you see Navy and what we do?
I'm not sure it's changed the way I
see the Navy. I've always had a good
relationship with the Navy even when
the stories have been both positive and
I find there's a lot of good will in
our Navy and a lot of pride. That's
sometimes hard to show, because
bureaucracy and politics get in the
way.But when we do cut through all
that and get granted access and witness
first hand what the Navy's achieving,
we get to talk with a lot of interesting
people who are doing very interesting
things in interesting parts of the world.
Australia likes to hear and see
those stories. And those stories are bet-
ter told and more accurately told by
Navy people than through spin and
-- Compiled by LCDR Fenn Kemp
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