Australian ends 30-year Navy commitment to Middle East

After 30 years of almost continuous naval patrols, The Royal Australian Navy is formally winding down its presence in the Middle East – to focus more on the Indo-Pacific region.

FILE PHOTO: HMAS Toowoomba in the Southern Arabian Gulf on Operation Manitou earlier this year. Photo by Leading Seaman Richard Cordell.

The changes include ceasing the annual deployment of a Royal Australian Navy ship to the Middle East, and not extending Australia’s commitment to the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) beyond December 2020.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the Royal Australian Navy is more active in the Indo-Pacific region than it has been in decades.

“This year alone has seen Navy respond to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, a five-ship deployment throughout South East Asia and the Pacific, a continued commitment to initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners,” Minister Reynolds said.

“We now face an increasingly challenging strategic environment which is placing greater demand on ADF resources closer to home.

“As a result, the Australian Defence Force will reduce its naval presence in the Middle East to enable more resources to be deployed in our region.”

Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Greg Bilton said these were historic changes for the Australian Defence Force.

“The outstanding contribution of Royal Australian Navy ships has been highly valued by our partners in the Middle East,” Lieutenant General Bilton said.

“We should all be proud of what the Royal Australian Navy has achieved over such a long period of sustained operations.”

Minister Reynolds said Australia was proud of its longstanding commitment to maritime security in the Middle East.

“For more than 30 years we have supported freedom of navigation, maritime security and the free flow of commerce in the Middle East,” Minister Reynolds said.

“In cooperation with our partners, our commitments have been invaluable in disrupting global drugs trade, supporting the reduction of funding lines to terrorism activity and building the capacity of regional forces.

“I thank the Navy for their contribution in the Middle East over this period of operations.

“I also recognise the important role their families and friends played during these deployments – their support allows those in uniform to achieve the mission.”

The Australian Defence Force will maintain staff positions with the Combined Maritime Forces, the United States Naval Forces Central Command, and within Joint Task Force 633.

HMAS Toowoomba was the last Australian ship to deploy to the Middle East under Operation Manitou, but returned to Australia in June 2020.

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Brian Hartigan

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