A Royal Australian Navy task group is deepening ties with friends, partners and allies across the Indo-Pacific as it continues a regional presence deployment.
CAPTION: USS Rafael Peralta leads a formation sail with HMCS Ottowa, HMAS Brisbane and JS Akebono during Exercise Noble Caribou in the South China Sea. Story by Lieutenant Commander Andrew Herring. Photo from Royal Canadian Navy.
Since departing Australian bases in September and October, the task group comprising HMA Ships Brisbane, Toowoomba and Stalwart – each with an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter embarked – has transited thousands of sea miles, visited four foreign ports and participated in exercises and cooperative activities with 10 regional navies.
This regional presence deployment, the fourth for 2023, follows earlier deployments involving HMA Ships Anzac, Canberra and Perth.
Toowoomba headed into the region first and conducted a cooperative engagement with Indian and Indonesian warships, then stopped briefly in Singapore before proceeding north to visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour.
The ship worked closely with allies, replenishing at sea from Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal Canadian Navy supply ships, as well as conducting close manoeuvres with frigates from both navies.
Toowoomba and its embarked helicopter, Valkyrie, then headed to South Korea to participate in the bilateral Exercise Haedoli Wallaby, which involved six ships and two aircraft from the Republic of Korea Navy and a RAAF P-8A Poseidon.
Toowoomba’s crew celebrated their ship ‘coming of age’ while deployed, cutting a cake to mark 18 years since the frigate commissioned into the RAN in October 2005.
CAPTION: HMAS Brisbane’s embarked MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, Chaos, conducts winching drills as the ship transits through the Surigao Strait. Photoby Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.
Meanwhile, Brisbane headed to Malaysia to join the about 800-strong ADF contingent participating in the Five Powers Defence Arrangements Exercise Bersama Lima, which included a busy week-long harbour phase and 10-day sea phase.
Brisbane then teamed up with ships from the Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, United States Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, as well as aircraft from the RAAF for Exercise Noble Caribou.
During Noble Caribou, partners integrated and operated together as a seamless combined force.
The ships sailed in formation, performed close manoeuvres, coordinated the flying operations of their embarked helicopters and conducted a high-seas weapons firing.
CAPTION: Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Doherty on the upper decks as HMAS Brisbane prepares to conduct a replenishment at sea with HMAS Stalwart. Photo by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.
Brisbane then rendezvoused with Stalwart to replenish at sea and transit in company towards Japan, while Stalwart also replenished partner nations’ ships.
Captain Hamish Frazer, who has embarked in Brisbane as Task Group Commander, is delighted with the progress.
“Despite only recently passing the half-way mark, we have already achieved so much – deepening relationships with friends, partners and allies throughout the region during this deployment,” Captain Frazer said.
“The ships’ companies of all three ships worked hard preparing for this deployment and everyone has risen to the challenge.
“We still have more to do, but I would like to acknowledge the sacrifice of friends and families back home, and I thank them for supporting and enabling their loved ones to do this important work representing Australia and strengthening regional security.”
The task group is expected to return to Australia in December.