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U.S. Navy Commissions Warship USS Canberra in Rare Overseas Ceremony

Sydney Opera House as seen from the deck of the LCS USS Canberra
USS Canberra arrives at Sydney, Australia (USN)

Published Jul 23, 2023 9:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Saturday, the U.S. Navy carried out a rare overseas commissioning ceremony in Sydney, Australia, providing a powerful symbol of the strengthening U.S.-Australian alliance in the Western Pacific. 

The event was symbolic in multiple senses. In addition to a long shared history of partnership, the U.S. Navy, the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy are working together on the procurement of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia, which will augment Australian security and bolster shared geopolitical goals in the Western Pacific. In the nearer term, U.S. Navy and Royal Navy nuclear attack subs will begin using a new base in Australia. 

"This ship before us . . . and our combined naval fleets play a crucial role in securing our ability to conduct unencumbered maritime trade across the globe," said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro at the ceremony. "That is why it is so crucial that we continue to strengthen the bonds and the trust between our armed forces."

In particular, Del Toro pointed to China's growing navy and its assertive posture in its near abroad, where it uses its "maritime organizational strength to coerce and intimidate its neighbors into accepting illegitimate maritime claims." 

USS Canberra (LCS-30) carries forward a shared history. She the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of Australia's capital, following the heavy cruiser USS Canberra (CA-70 / CAG-2). Both were named after an Australian heavy cruiser, HMAS Canberra, which was disabled by Japanese fire and scuttled during the amphibious landings on Guadalcanal in 1942. HMAS Canberra was hit 24 times in two minutes by a Japanese strike group, then again by an errant American torpedo; 84 crewmembers were killed and about 600 survived. She was one of four cruisers destroyed while protecting the amphibious assault force on the beaches from the Japanese Navy that day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the new cruiser USS Pittsburgh renamed USS Canberra in her honor. 

“Today marks a proud moment which our Royal Australian Navy is privileged to share alongside our allies and friends in the United States Navy,” said Australian Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond at the commissioning. “The connection between our navies, forged in battle during the Second World War, is reflected in the name USS Canberra.”

USS Canberra will carry at least one Australian officer or sailor aboard throughout her years in service as part of an exchange program. She will also carry the Royal Australian Navy's kangaroo emblem on her funnel (modified with the stars and stripes). 

The new USS Canberra (LCS-30) was also built by an Australian-owned company, Austal USA. She is fifth from the last of the Independence-class LCS series, designed for high speed patrol and interdiction.