Reconnaissance for Future Operations
6 October 2016
Operations Render Safe 16 has come to a fitting end in the Solomon Islands following a reconnaissance mission to the Western Provinces that will pave the way for the future destruction of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
An enduring annual Australian-led mission, this year the operation destroyed over 10 tonnes of World War II munitions in the central islands.
Two Australian mine hunters, HMAS Diamantina and HMAS Huon, and the New Zealand diving support vessel, HMNZ Manawanui, left Port of Honiara on October 1st to begin the search.
The ships separated to search areas in New Georgia, the Shortland Islands and Choiseul to determine the presence or absence of explosive remnants of war for potential future clearance operations.
Commander of the Task Force, Commander (CMDR) Etienne Mulder, was aboard Diamantina during the reconnaissance mission and said many islands in the Western Provinces had not been searched in past Operation Render Safe activities.
"Some of these islands were at the centre of fighting between the Allies and the Japanese during WWII and places like the Shortland Islands were heavily engaged by aircraft and artillery," he said.
"The Shortland Islands was the location of Japanese supply bases and airfields which were consequently taken over by the US and their allies and as a result there is a lot of explosive ordnance lying around, which poses a dangerous threat to the locals."
During their exploration of the Shortland Islands, the crew of Diamantina located Japanese and US relics, including airfields, concrete bunkers, wrecked aircraft, vehicles and artillery overgrown by jungle or covered in water, as well as explosive ordnance of different calibres.
The Japanese airstrip at Balalae Island, which is close to Bougainville, has a grim history as it was where many British Army prisoners of war died during its construction.
The airstrip is still in remarkable condition and is regularly maintained for use by island traders.
CMDR Mulder said the ordnance in these areas had been untouched for 70 years because they were rarely visited.
"New Zealand's Operation Pukuruku is similar to Operation Render Safe and they plan to potentially operate in this area, which is why HMNZ Manawanui conducted a reconnaissance around Munda in south-west Choiseul," he said.
"Operation Render Safe is not just important to the Solomon Islands, it's important to all the people of the south-west Pacific.
"These countries did not choose to be involved in the war between the allies and the Japanese and it left the legacy of explosive remnants of war.
"We are here to help the Solomon Islands to clear that deadly menace."