QUAD & AUKUS Partner Australia Faces Embarrassment After Its Biggest Warship Gets Crippled During Relief Mission

Australia has been working tirelessly to deliver aid to the tsunami-hit Pacific state of Tonga. However, one of its most powerful warships experienced a major glitch after it completed a humanitarian mission.   

The Australian Navy’s largest warship, HMAS Adelaide, has been crippled by a power failure as it completed an emergency mission in the aftermath of the January 14 volcano explosion and tsunami, reported ABC News. This was later confirmed by the Australian Department of Defense.

HMAS Adelaide, which is a landing helicopter dock (LHD) or amphibious ship, is still encountering problems and was previously “stranded”, according to ABC News.

HMAS Adelaide (L01) - Wikipedia
HMAS Adelaide (L01) – Wikipedia

“Marine Technical Department has worked during the past few days to restore electricity and get us operational again,” according to an email issued by the commander of HMAS Adelaide.

Military specialists claim they are working around the clock to repair a power outage that has crippled Australia’s largest warship, in the Pacific, in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

A Defense Department spokesperson, however, claimed HMAS Adelaide is currently backed up and running with regular power generation capabilities and “critical systems including communications, air-conditions, ventilation, food services, and sanitation systems are functional”.

“HMAS Adelaide is working in hot, humid and arduous conditions noting Tonga’s tropical climate and the command team is proactively managing heat and fatigue levels through Ship’s Company” (sic), the spokesperson said.

Numerous crew members informed the media that majority of the ship’s company was now sleeping “above deck” due to power issues.

The commander of HMAS Adelaide described the conditions on board as “uncomfortable” in an email acquired by the ABC, although Defense Department says that “critical operations such as refrigeration and sanitation systems are up and functioning”.

The Australian warship has been instrumental in shipping the much-needed humanitarian aid to Tonga. However, about a week ago, the warship ran into a crisis as a covid outbreak was recorded onboard the vessel with at least 23 crew members testing positive, as previously reported by BBC.

Australia Vs China In The Pacific

“Warships cost a lot of money because, in battle, they’re not supposed to have a single point of failure,” independent Senator for South Australia and former navy submariner Rex Patrick tweeted. “Redundancy is built-in bow-to-stern and port-to-starboard. HMAS Adelaide’s ‘total power failure’ is therefore of considerable concern.”

While the Australian warship remains stranded due to a power blackout, China has made a significant outreach with relief aid. It is pertinent to note that Canberra remains wary of the increasing influence of Beijing in the Pacific which is its natural sphere of influence.

The Chinese state-controlled media announced a mission to deliver badly needed relief supplies by one of its own amphibious assault ships, the PLAN Wuzhishan, accompanied by a support ship. The two Chinese naval vessels departed Guangzhou, South China’s port city, on January 31, stated News.com.au.

Concerns exist in Australia about China establishing a regional military presence in the Pacific. Australia has a reason to worry as China can join infrastructure building projects stretching from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to Fiji and Kiribati.

File Image: Type 075 amphibious assault ship of China

By virtue of its influence in its region, China could potentially unseat Australia and diminish the power of the West in the Pacific.

Beijing is one of the few regional powers with a massive fleet of amphibious assault ships. These are ideal for disaster relief missions. These vehicle-carrying landing crafts do not require docks.

Instead, they are designed to transfer supplies and equipment while remaining offshore. They also house a significant number of troops and emergency services personnel and are usually equipped with extensive medical facilities, ABC News reported.

According to Chinese official media, the two ships are carrying 1400 tons of cargo, which includes tents, tractors, generators, and medical equipment. The mission is a follow-up to an airlift on January 28. Two big PLA Y-20 delivery planes flew tents, mattresses, water purifiers, and food into Tonga’s capital.


At a time when Australia remains committed to acquiring nuclear submarines from the US and UK under the AUKUS pact to create an effective deterrence against China, the breakdown of its conventional warship may be seen as an embarrassment. The fact that the ship hasn’t been restored completely yet makes matters worse.

RAF Comes To Rescue

Royal Air Force planes are thought to have landed in Tonga with spare parts needed to repair the glitch-ridden HMAS Adelaide.

The complicated repair operation entails procuring spare parts and equipment from “all over Australia, including Western Australia,” and then flying them to Tonga in accordance with strict COVID-19 standards, stated ABC news.

“What we are seeing reportedly is that there is a total of power failure,” Senator Rex Patrick told ABC News. “If that is the case, that means there is a single point of failure and you cannot have that on the warship and we will definitely have to look at the details of what happened there because that is not acceptable.”

The bottom line is that Australian efforts to restore the warship have been going on in full swing and the warship could be expected to sail soon.