Navy takes a break from Middle East patrols

With the return of HMAS Ballarat from its nine-month deployment to the Middle East under Operation Manitou on Sunday – and no yet named to take over patrolling duties – Australia is effectively taking a break from its highly successful naval patrols in the region.

FILE PHOTO (December 2013): A typical dhow in the Middle East. Photo by Able Seaman Jayson Tufrey.

This isn’t the first time, however – Ballarat’s deployment to the Middle East in October last year commenced four months after HMAS Warramunga came home.

However, before that, it was routine for Royal Australian Navy ships to to perform a hand-over-take-over of duties either in the Gulf or en-route somewhere between here and there – effectively maintaining a continuous Australian presence with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).

The four-month break between HMAS Warramunga’s return home and HMAS Ballarat’s departure will be increased for the next rotation, with a Defence spokesman telling CONTACT that an as-yet-unnamed “Royal Australian Navy frigate will return to the Middle East Region as part of Operation Manitou in early 2020”.

This slow-down in naval patrols follows hot on the heals of the two most successful Australian missions. HMAS Warramunga prevented more than $2billion in illegal drug proceeds reaching terrorists during her deployment last year – and HMAS Ballarat seized and destroyed more than a $1billion worth of illegal drugs, plus nearly half-a-million rounds of small-arms ammunition during her recent voyage.

Navy’s break from patrolling also coincides with increasing tensions in the Middle East, especially between the US and Iran as well as the UK and Iran.

It also coincides with an increase in the Royal Australian Air Force’s commitment, from zero aircraft since the return of a lone E-7A Wedgetail in February this year, to now deploying both a KC-30A air-to-air refuelling tanker and a Wedgetail (the latter of which Defence said in February had completed its final rotation in support of Operation Okra [noting that all photos and info relating to this ‘final mission’ have disappeared from official Internet pages].

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I am not trying to start any conspiracy theories here. I’m just reporting the facts I am aware of – noting that the absence of information tickles my curiosity bone.

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RELATED HMAS BALLARAT STORIES:

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RELATED HMAS WARRAMUNGA STORIES:

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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