On a frosty and unseasonably sunny Galician morning, the crew of Spanish Armada ship F-105 ESPS Cristóbal Colón, embarked with a detachment of five Royal Australian Navy personnel, departed the historic Naval station of Ferrol, bound for Australia.
Australian Defence Attaché to Southern Europe, Captain Ray Leggatt and the Commander of the Naval Action Group One, Rear Admiral Spanish Armada, Alfonso Perez de Nandares, farewelled the frigate under the command of Commander Ignacio Cuartero Lorenzo.
Cristóbal Colón will arrive at Fleet Base West, in Rockingham Western Australia, in mid-February and will remain until June supporting introduction into service training for the ship’s company of destroyer, NUSHIP Hobart.
Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Shane Smith, is amongst the detachment embarked on the Cristóbal Colón and said the Spanish frigate has an almost identical layout and shared systems with the air warfare destroyer.
“I participated in the recent Hobart sea trials and from what I have observed our navies will operate the systems in a very similar way,” he said.
Lieutenant Commander Ben Wellfare who is leading the Australian detachment said the Australian personnel are putting the transit time to good use.
“We are developing a training program for NUSHIP Hobart crew during the transit. Up to 30 Hobart personnel will embark on Cristobal Colon for familiarisation each time the Spanish ship sails.”
“We are also working with the Armada to assist them integrate with the Royal Australian Navy,” Lieutenant Commander Wellfare said.
During their four month stay, 185 Armada personnel will call Australia home. Spanish Leading Seaman Cesar Carralero said while he will be a long way from family and friends, he is excited to visit Australia.
“This is a great opportunity to work with an allied Navy. I am also eager to sail into Sydney Harbour to see the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House for myself. Apart from this I would really love to visit Uluru if it is possible during our time off,” Leading Seaman Carralero said.
There is a strong relationship between the navies already, building on HMAS Anzac's visit to Spain in 2015 and the Australian-basing of replenishment ship ESPS Cantabria in 2013.