Lieutenant Commander Duncan Macrae has been away from home for a long time.
LCDR Macrae left Australia in April 2011 to join Her Majesty’s Ship Dragon as part of a professional exchange program with the Royal Navy (RN).
More than two years after leaving Australia, while deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) as Dragon’s Air Warfare Officer, LCDR Macrae took advantage of a rare opportunity to cross decks for a few hours into HMAS Newcastle in the Arabian Sea. He said the experience was almost like going home.
“It was very exciting to get back to familiar territory and enjoy some Tim Tams and Vegemite. I have even been given some to take back to Dragon,” LCDR Macrae said.
The Air Warfare Specialist was posted to the UK after completing a successful stint as HMAS Darwin’s Operations Officer.
“My exchange is part of a standing Air Warfare exchange agreement shared between the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the RN,” LCDR Macrae said.
“The RN operates very similarly to the way we do in Australia. The main differences that I have experienced have been the locations that Dragon has operated in and the RN’s different strategic viewpoints.”
Dragon is a new Type 45 Air Warfare Destroyer which shares many similarities to the destroyers being built for the RAN.
“It has been very beneficial to experience bringing this type of ship to a high-end air warfare environment and have opportunities to work in carrier strike groups, particularly with our new Air Warfare Destroyers under construction.
“My exchange has been really valuable. Fortunately, I joined Dragon just after she was built, so I was able to go through trials and work-ups with her, and now this operational deployment as well.”
The cross deck into Newcastle gave LCDR Macrae a taste of things to come.
“I’m heading home to Australia at the end of the year to join Sea Training Group.”
LCDR Macrae shared his cross deck experience with a number of RN sailors and junior officers who were given lunch and a tour of the Australian Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigate (FFG).
Seven members of the Australian crew, including Newcastle’s Commanding Officer, also had the opportunity to visit Dragon to enjoy a lunch of fish and chips in the new Destroyer. They were transferred in Dragon’s Lynx helicopter – ‘Flame-trap’.
Able Seaman Alexandra Thomson said she was impressed by the accommodation spaces in the Royal Navy ship.
“Dragon is completely different to Newcastle in every way. Everything is so much bigger and more spread out on their ship. They have four berth cabins for their junior sailors, unlike our cabin which is home to 30 girls,” AB Thomson said.
“That was the first ‘cross deck’ experience I have ever had and the British made me feel so welcome.”
Newcastle is deployed as part of Operation SLIPPER - the Australian Defence Force contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement. During her mission, the Australian warship is working as part of a multi-national Coalition made up of navies from 29 nations, including the RN.
Additional imagery is available at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130999.