The much-discussed first overseas commissioning of a US Navy warship will be ceremonial in nature with the vessel already having been commissioned into service in the United States.

Naval Technology had previously been informed that the USS Canberra would be making the 7,500-mile transit from San Diego to Sydney, Australia, as a Pre-Commissioning Unit vessel, and the platform would not be carrying its full load of munitions as a result.

Naval Technology now understands that the vessel will be carrying a typical load of munitions. A US Navy spokesperson confirmed that USS Canberra had previously been administratively commissioned into US Navy service, and that the event in Sydney would be “ceremonial”.

The development comes days after the US Navy announced the planned overseas commissioning of the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Canberra (LCS 30) on 22 July at the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Base East in Sydney, Australia.

The commissioning ceremony is billed as being the first ever conducted on a US naval warship outside of the United States.

“I can think of no better way to signify our enduring partnership with Australia than celebrating the newest US Navy warship named for Australia’s capital city and commissioning her in Royal Australian Navy Fleet Base East surrounded by many of the Australian ships we have worked alongside for years,” stated US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.

“I look forward to this momentous day for the ship, crew, sponsor, and all our partners in government and industry who worked tirelessly to give the future USS Canberra the celebration it deserves.”

The USS Canberra was laid down in 2020, christened in 2021, and arrived in its homeport of San Diego in 2022. The vessel will be the 16th Independence-class LCS to be commissioned into US Navy service.

US-Australia ties deepen

With its Pacific pivot, the US has placed a renewed emphasis of its relations with allies in the region, none more so than Australia. The ceremonial commissioning of USS Canberra will further deepen these ties, which in March 2023 reached a new peak following the AUKUS submarine programme, which will see the US and the UK assist Australia in the induction of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN).

Australia had earlier cancelled a plan to acquire conventionally powered submarines from France, based on the Barracuda design.

The AUKUS programme will see Australia acquire an initial fleet of three US Virginia-class SSNs from the US, delivered in the early 2030s. In addition, a subsequent option of two further Virginia class will be available, potentially providing the Royal Australian Navy with a fleet of five nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Following this, the UK will provide design and expertise for the development of the AUKUS SSN, a new class of SSN to be developed for both the UK Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy.

US Navy SSNs will also conduct more regular visits to Australian naval bases to aid in familiarisation, while Australian personnel are already undergoing nuclear submarine training in the United States.

Australia is seen a key ally in the Indo-Pacific region to counter the rising superpower of China and is set to further cement as a leading regional ally of the US in the years ahead.

[Correction: This copy has been updated to reflect the vessel is commissioned in US Navy service, and will transit the Pacific stocked and armed as a serving warship. However, the commissioning event in Australia will be ceremonial in nature]