HMA Ships Choules and Huon and an embarked MRH-90 Taipan helicopter have been conducting navigational and flight-training exercises during a six-day passage to Vanuatu. 

The two ships departed Sydney this week to support the Republic of Vanuatu’s 40th Anniversary of Independence celebrations at the request of the Government of Vanuatu.

Choules also delivered Australian-funded equipment to assist Vanuatu’s tropical cyclone Harold recovery efforts.

Commanding Officer Huon Lieutenant Commander Robert Short said the transit passage in company provided an invaluable opportunity for bridge staff to practise communication, consort control and monitoring skills. 

“Officers-of-the-watch under training are conducting their first ever manoeuvres, as is my seaman communicator,” Lieutenant Commander Short said. 

“Likewise, access to an aircraft is rare, with this being only the second flying serial the ship will have conducted with an aircraft in the previous two years.” 

Huon has taken the opportunity to conduct the transit without GPS navigation, using contours to reduce pool of errors and infrequent position lines because of overcast conditions.

Meanwhile, Choules is conducting a range of training, including officers-of-the-watch manoeuvers, small-boat training, damage-control exercises, daily engineering casualty control drills and daily flight training. 

Operations Officer Lieutenant Commander Justin Raward said travelling alongside Huon provided an opportunity to train in company. 

“It is important to take any and all training opportunities as they present themselves in order to maintain a unit’s capability and personnel proficiencies,” Lieutenant Commander Raward said. 

“Operating with an MHC also enables us to practise more unique skills, such as leading the safe navigation for other ships through channels, and for the helicopter, small-boat approaches and winching.” 

In addition to its regular ship’s company, Choules has embarked personnel from across Navy to support their training requirements, including additional maritime warfare officers, pilots, maritime logistics personnel and engineering trainees.