11 Juni 2010
HMAS Balikpapan (photo : Australian DoD)
Punching Above Their Weight
They may be small, but the concentrated force of the Royal Australian Navy's Minor War Vessels packs a powerful punch.
Five of the fleet were put through their paces in waters off Darwin, as part of the Minor War Vessel Concentration Period (MWVCP), a collective training activity geared at honing fundamental war-fighting skills in the minor war vessel community while also exercising border protection competencies, amphibious skills and common mariner skills.
Cairns-based HMAS Bundaberg joined Darwin-based Armidale Class Patrol Boat's Glenelg and Pirie and Heavy Landing Crafts (LCH) Balikpapan and Betano for the two-week long exercise.
HMAS Betano (photo : Australian DoD)
The sea phase, comprising of graduated serials, commenced with the ships departing Darwin harbour in formation and honing their Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres as they sailed to the Beagle Gulf. An aviation serial was conducted by HMAS Bundaberg, with a media contingent winched from the deck by an Agusta A109E helicopter from 723 Squadron. "The safe and efficient conduct of helicopter operations is a big ticket item in terms of the outcomes of MWVCP.
During the sea phase, we successfully put all crews over the ASSA line. The crews' consolidated skills can now be exported throughout the Fleet, as these crews move on to serve elsewhere," said Commander (CMDR) Alex Hawes, Commander Task Group, MWVCP.
The training escalated from seamanship, tactical evolutions and gunnery to complex multi-unit activities including an amphibious Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) staged at the HMAS Coonawarra boat ramp, supported by the Army's Darwin-based 2CAV with an ASLAV, GMV and 3 Unimogs.
"The NEO was an opportunity to train for assistance to civil community and importantly integrated the Australian Army. The interoperability between the RAN and the Army is essential for current ADF operation and pertinent for the future capability," said CMDR Hawes.
Armidale class consists of : HMAS Albany, HMAS Ararat, HMAS Armidale, HMAS Bathurst, HMAS Broome, HMAS Bundaberg, HMAS Childers, HMAS Glenelg, HMAS Larrakia, HMAS Launceston, HMAS Launceston, HMAS Maitland, HMAS Maryborough, HMAS Pirie, and HMAS Wollongong (photo : Australian DoD)
Crews were also challenged to integrate to achieve a mission during a scenario-based boarding operation. The serial commenced with the A109E helicopter searching the grid for Marine Vessel (MV) Sapphire Bay and two Defence Martime Service assets simulating fishing vessels and a Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV). Once located, the ACPB's swung into action locating and conducting multiple boardings. To complicate the scenario, three additional patrol boats, HMA Ships Launceston, Childers and Wollongong were introduced unexpectedly, and a Search and Rescue operation was conducted, which saw Glenelg tow Childers.
"The free-play period provided the ships and aircraft with an opportunity to exercise control of force in a scenario based time frame, allowing for free thought and the coordination of multiple classes of ships to achieve the mission," said CMDR Hawes.
"It really set my team back on their haunches to see the way in which the assigned units carved through the free play phase. With an hour to run I had used all my planned primary and contingency scenarios. That's a pretty satisfying place to be at the end of the day.
A109E naval helicoter (photo : Australian DoD)
"In company time is a precious resource to our ships at sea so while it can be challenging to schedule exercises, given the high tempo of Operation Resolute commitments, it remains achievable. Too busy to train is an unacceptable stance, as all these capabilities are perishable," explained CMDR Hawes.
"We have a dedicated body of Servicemen and women in the Minor War Vessel community supported by an extraordinarily understanding Family network. We know our efforts contribute significantly to the safety, security and good order of the Country we love. We need no more motivation than that and we expect no accolades for the privilege of the duty of Service."