Adding fuel to the fleet

Two Australian warships contributed to the high tempo of a Japan-led maritime exercise in the Philippine Sea.

CAPTIONHMAS Stalwart’s embarked MH-60R helicopter ‘Boomerang’ conducts a vertical replenishment while the ship conducts a replenishment at sea with HMAS Brisbane. Story by Lieutenant Max Logan. Photos by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.

Annualex included units from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, US Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, as well as observers from the Philippine Navy.

Annualex aimed to strengthen enduring relationships while sharpening naval and air proficiencies as part of Australia’s commitment to stability and security in the shared regions of participating nations.

For the hardworking crews of HMA Ships Brisbane and Stalwart, the key serials included anti-submarine warfare, flying operations and replenishments at sea.

Leading Seaman Matthew Grimwood, a combat systems operator from Brisbane, said working alongside the other participating forces was a great opportunity, particularly with the presence of the US Navy ship USS Carl Vinson – a behemoth more than 330m long.

“Seeing the aircraft carrier up that close was really cool,” he said.

“It was a great opportunity to work with such an advanced naval capability.

“Working side by side with our partner nations was a great learning experience for the entire crew of HMAS Brisbane.”

Stalwart Combat Systems Manager Chief Petty OfficerAaron Robinsonsaid the tempo had been high, especially when conducting multiple replenishments at sea in a single day, with Stalwart notching four within an eight-hour period.

“During Annualex, Stalwart’s crew got to show our allied partners what we can do by providing underway logistical support and enhancing task group interoperability and sustainability,” Chief Petty Officer Robinson said.

CAPTIONHMAS Brisbane sails alongside HMAS Stalwart in rough weather to conduct a replenishment at sea during Annualex 2023.

“A busy replenishment at sea schedule of refuelling JS Yugiri, a dual replenishment at sea with USS Kidd and JS Hyuga, and finally refuelling HMAS Brisbane is all in a day’s work for the crew of Stalwart.”

Stalwart Aircrewman Leading Seaman Brad Firkin said the exercise was a valuable opportunity.

“Annualex has provided Stalwart’s embarked flight crew with some extremely rewarding and diverse flying from international cross-decks to vertical replenishments and anti-submarine warfare training with our strategic partners,” Leading Seaman Firkin said.

“There has been a great sense of achievement for the whole team knowing we are enhancing Stalwart’s capability all while being the first flight to embark in an auxiliary oiler replenishment ship during a deployment.”

Director General Maritime Operations Commodore Mick Harris attended the Annualex opening ceremony on board Carl Vinson and expressed the importance of Australia’s participation.

“The Royal Australian Navy is pleased to again join with our regional allies and partners to deepen our longstanding relationships, further enhance our ability to operate together at sea and to support our region’s security and prosperity,” he said.

Brisbane, Stalwart and Toowoomba are continuing to conduct regional presence deployment activities in South-East and North-East Asia.

CAPTIONHMAS Brisbane and HMAS Stalwart conduct a replenishment at sea in the Philippine Sea.


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