Navy’s Surface Force capped off a busy year, with most of its combatants deploying overseas.
Surface Force is responsible for readiness for sea and combat of Navy’s major warships - 14 frigates, destroyers, amphibious ships and support vessels.
Commander Surface Force, Commodore Stephen Hughes, said the number of overseas deployments and international exercises in the fleet’s schedule in 2019 showed a high level of combat readiness.
“This year we deployed our new Hobart-class destroyers concurrently,” Commodore Hughes said.
“HMAS Hobart spent almost four months deployed in east Asia as the command platform for a Task Group of 11 ships and took part in multinational exercises.
“Meanwhile HMAS Brisbane completed her first overseas deployment testing her Aegis combat system in the United States, including striking targets using remotely-supplied telemetry from an American warship for the first time.
“This year has affirmed that these warships are the most capable and lethal at our disposal.”
Navy’s Anzac-class frigates also demonstrated their capabilities overseas in the Middle East and across the Indo-Pacific region.
“HMAS Toowoomba sailed as far west as India for multinational French-led exercises, while Ballarat spent nine months deployed as part of Operation Manitou in the Middle East region, where she seized nearly 20 tonnes of illicit drugs worth an estimated value of $1.41 billion,” Commodore Hughes said.
“Sister ships Arunta, Parramatta and Stuart deployed to east Asia, visiting Guam, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, among other nations, as part of Navy’s biggest concurrent deployment of the year.”
While Navy’s blue-water fighting force was busy, the amphibious and support ships also made valuable contributions to Australia’s interests abroad.
"This year has affirmed that these warships are the most capable and lethal at our disposal.”
Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) HMAS Canberra spent most of the year deployed, sailing almost 22,000 nautical miles to Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia as part of Indo Pacific Endeavour and Exercise Talisman Sabre with sister ship HMAS Adelaide.
Adelaide deployed to the south-west Pacific, visiting regional partners and supporting Operation Render Safe, a mission to dispose of World War II explosives in the Solomon Islands.
In a testament to their hard work, the LHDs recently achieved final operational capability under Joint Project 2048.
“The final operational capability milestone is a credit to the officers and sailors of both LHDs and the wider amphibious organisation, who have worked hard to achieve this,” Commodore Hughes said.
“We know that when called upon, the LHDs can deliver large-scale task group operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and they will remain the centrepieces of our littoral operations for years to come.”
Navy’s afloat support ships consistently delivered in 2019. HMAS Success deployed right up to the end of her service life and HMAS Sirius deployed as the sole replenishment ship for the recent Task Group in east Asia.
While 2019 was a year of significant achievement, it was also one of rejuvenation of the fleet that will continue into 2020.
The last two Adelaide-class frigates - Melbourne and Newcastle - decommissioned following their last overseas deployments, bringing almost 40 years of service by the class to an end.
HMAS Success also decommissioned after 33 years of service as Navy’s ‘Battle Tanker’.
“While it is sad to farewell ships with such a long history, it is also exciting as we consider the new ships that will soon join in 2020, boosting our capability,” Commodore Hughes said.
“NUSHIP Sydney is the last of the Hobart-class destroyers and will commission early next year and our new replenishment ships, Supply and Stalwart, are well on their way to entering service in the near future.
“In 2020, HMAS Warramunga will complete her mid-life upgrade and HMAS Perth will commence her upgrade program, returning to the fleet in late 2021.
“All the while our fleet is making preparations to deploy now, with HMAS Toowoomba ready to sail to the Middle East region in January and other ships making preparations to take part in exercises and engagement activities across the region.”