A Joint Task Force has sailed out of Darwin on the ADF’s largest deployment of the year.

About 1500 ADF personnel are embarked in HMA Ships Arunta, Sirius, Stuart, Hobart and Canberra and will participate in exercises in Southeast Asia, en route to Exercise Rim of the Pacific off the coast of Hawaii. 

Commander of the Joint Task Group Commodore Michael Harris said the three-month Regional Presence Deployment 2020 was an opportunity to engage with partners and support the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region.    

“This deployment demonstrates our ability to conduct sustained operations as a joint force and to continue increasing the capability of the ADF,” Commodore Harris said.

The ADF conducts military-to-military engagements throughout the Indo-Pacific each year to foster relationships, share knowledge and enhance its ability to operate with partner nations during security or humanitarian crises.

Once outside Australian waters, the ships will refuel and resupply while underway in accordance with protocols that mitigate COVID-19 related risks.

This will be an unusual deployment as ships will not be able to visit ports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The deployment is a welcome challenge for members of ships’ companies, including Hobart’s Able Seaman Thomas Woodyatt .

“It’ll be a learning experience for all members as to what their members and ships are capable of during these extraordinary times,” Seaman Woodyatt said.

“The ADF has faced a great challenge with the pandemic in ensuring their people are safe and helping keep the community safe. To still be able to send warships to sea and continue to protect the country is an incredible accomplishment.”

Leading Seaman Jesse Edwards said he was pleased to be part of a trip that would help strengthen ties with other nations.  

“Strategic and defence relationships in this area are crucial and I can understand the importance of what we are doing at this time,” Leading Seaman Edwards said.  

Some ships will also sail to Hawaii to take part in the biennial Exercise Rim of the Pacific, the world’s largest maritime exercise, which Australia has taken part in since the 1970s. 

Commodore Harris thanked personnel and their families for their resilience and support.  

“This deployment demonstrates our ability to conduct sustained operations as a joint force, and we acknowledge the support our families and friends without whom we cannot achieve these tasks,” Commodore Harris said.