Exercise STRONGBACK SIM heralds new approach to deployment readiness training

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), LSIS Bradley Darvill (photographer), ABIS Bonny Gassner (photographer)

Location(s): Rockingham, Western Australia, Sydney, New South Wales

Topic(s): HMAS Arunta (F151), HMAS Newcastle (F06)

Seaman Combat Systems Operator Aaron Symons mans a console as the crew of HMAS Parramatta runs through multi-unit warfare simulations as part of Exercise STRONGBACK SIM conducted out of Systems Training School, HMAS Watson. (photo: ABIS Bonny Gassner)
Seaman Combat Systems Operator Aaron Symons mans a console as the crew of HMAS Parramatta runs through multi-unit warfare simulations as part of Exercise STRONGBACK SIM conducted out of Systems Training School, HMAS Watson.

A new era in working towards unit readiness was introduced recently when Exercise STRONGBACK SIM was conducted at Fleet Base West in Western Australia and HMAS Watson in Sydney.

The exercise, which formed part of HMAS Arunta’s work-up and HMAS Newcastle’s air warfare competency assessment, saw a significant component of the training take place alongside in a simulated environment.

Commodore Training, Commodore Michael Rothwell said STRONGBACK SIM used an increased level of simulation to progress both individual and collective training.

“Traditionally, our collective training has been conducted completely at sea but this first week of Arunta’s work-up, which runs over five weeks, is being conducted alongside in a completely simulated environment,” he said.

During the exercise, Arunta and Newcastle were put through a number of simulated evolutions, including AW8 multi-unit warfare exercises, whole ship damage control and fire-fighting exercises, anti-submarine warfare exercises and boarding operations.

Arunta
also carried out a number of intensive engineering casualty drills during the exercise.

Commodore Rothwell said there were many benefits to be had by conducting various evolutions in a simulated environment.

“Firstly, we’re getting efficiencies in training because we’re free from geographical and resource constraints, secondly we’re in a secure environment where we can conduct sensitive training, and lastly, and very importantly for force commanders, we’re able to hand back platform sea days to allow them to employ those assets operationally.”

He said simulated training also allowed the ship’s company to practice high-end mission scenarios against a more realistic and challenging adversary than what would be available in a non-simulated environment.

Commodore Rothwell said while there will always be an obvious need for a significant amount of training to be conducted at sea, he expects a growth in the simulated component of Navy’s fleet work-up program.

“Certainly the new destroyers will need a simulated environment to challenge both the combat system and the ship’s company, but we still require some of the work-up to be conducted at sea as we need to experience the harshness of the maritime environment and to build skills that way,” he said.

During the course of the week, Arunta and Newcastle also took part in various synthetic war games with the command team from HMAS Parramatta which was located in the frigate simulator at Watson.