With the return of HMAS Ballarat from its nine-month deployment to the Middle East under Operation Manitou on Sunday – and no replacement 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.
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 naval presence in the Gulf since 1990.
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].
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.
RELATED HMAS BALLARAT STORIES:
- HMAS Ballarat home from very successful Middle East Mission
- Ballarat seizes suspected arms shipment
- HMAS Ballarat nabs more drugs – Defence suddenly coy about specifics
- Ballarat busts past $billion$ milestone
- HMAS Ballarat destroys another 2.6tonne of drugs
- HMAS Ballarat seizes another 2tonne of hash
- HMAS Ballarat scores again
- HMAS Ballarat joins US carrier strike group
- HMAS Ballarat seizes 3.1tonne of hashish
- HMAS Ballarat seizes 900kg or heroin
- HMAS Ballarat settles in to sea patrols
- HMAS Ballarat begins 9-month deployment
RELATED HMAS WARRAMUNGA STORIES:
- Warramunga home after record-breaking deployment
- 27-29 December 2017: 8 tonnes hashish, 69kg heroin, (from three vessels)(with video)
- 3 January 2018: 3.5 tonnes hashish
- 7 January 2018: 111kg heroin (with video)
- 24 January 2018: 915kg heroin (with video)
- 1 February 2018: 414kg heroin (with video)
- 3 March 2018: hashish, approx 4.1 tonnes (with video)
- 4 March 2018: hashish, approx 3.9 tonnes (with video)
- 6 March 2018: heroin, approx 132kg (with video)
- 10 May 2018: heroin, approx 295kg
- 21-22 May 2018: hashish, aprox 6.2 tonnes
- 3-5 June 2018: hashish, 6.3 tonnes (this story)