New search phase as ships return home

Published on LEUT Kara Wansbury (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer), ABIS Chris Beerens (photographer), CPL Jessica de Rouw (photographer)

Topic(s): Operations, HMAS Toowoomba (F156)

HMAS Toowoomba comes onto station to conduct a Replenishment at Sea with HMAS Success while on Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN in search of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
 (photo: ABIS Chris Beerens)
HMAS Toowoomba comes onto station to conduct a Replenishment at Sea with HMAS Success while on Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN in search of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

As the search for MH370 enters a new phase, HMAS Toowoomba and MV Seahorse Standard have returned to their home port of Fleet Base West after completing their commitment to Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.

Both vessels were part of the surface search task group, looking for evidence of the missing flight in the southern Indian Ocean.

Spending approximately one month on task, both vessels were an integral part of the task group, often searching in trying weather conditions.

Joint Task Force 658 Commander, Commodore Peter Leavy said the commitment displayed by both crews was commendable.

HMAS Toowoomba in the Indian Ocean after conducting a Replenishment at Sea with United States Navy Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez, whilst on Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN, in search of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

HMAS Toowoomba in the Indian Ocean after conducting a Replenishment at Sea with United States Navy Ship (USNS) Cesar Chavez, whilst on Operation SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN, in search of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

“The military and civilian personnel onboard these vessels worked around the clock to search the area as part of a multi-national effort, and I couldn’t be prouder of their commitment and dedication to the job,” he said.

“Operating in company with vessels from China, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States: the total amount of area searched, which includes surface and air, was approximately 1,088,448 square nautical miles.”

Commodore Leavy said the successful interoperability between the different navies greatly assisted in the search effort.

“As a nation we engage with other navies on a regular basis to enhance our awareness of their operations and that really came to the fore on this operation,” he said.

“For example, small boat operations between Toowoomba and the Chinese destroyer Haikou (DDG 171) were safely conducted in very trying sea conditions.”

As part of the search, the 2000-tonne multi-purpose vessel, MV Seahorse Standard, operated by Defence Maritime Services, embarked a 16-person Navy crew with specialised look-outs, a small boat crew, clearance divers and communicators to assist with the mission.

The multi purpose vessel Seahorse Standard alongside Fleet Base West in Western Australia.

The multi purpose vessel Seahorse Standard alongside Fleet Base West in Western Australia.

The 170-strong ship’s company of HMAS Toowoomba, a guided helicopter frigate, used their suite of sensors and trained lookouts to conduct visual search in their assigned area.

Upon their return home, personnel from both vessels will take a few days rest before returning to work to resume their routine tasking.