HMAS Newcastle has rounded out her busy six-month deployment to the Middle East, completing some ‘firsts’ and ‘lasts’ for Australian Navy ships in the region.
During her demanding deployment, she patrolled about 25,500 nautical miles or five times the distance around Australia.
She conducted a range of Combined Maritime Forces operations, including an attachment in support of the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, and trialled emerging naval capabilities.
Commanding Officer, Commander Mark Sirois said the deployment included many highlights.
“During our attachment to the US 5th Fleet and USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group we conducted escort operations and a range of manoeuvres with US Navy ships,” he said.
“We formed part of Nimitz’s anti-air defence and escorted US Navy ships through the straight of Hormuz.
“It makes me quite proud to know that the United States relied on us to help protect key ships and thousands of their lives.”
Newcastle also conducted several boarding operations while assigned to Combined Maritime Forces operations searching for drug smugglers.
As part of these operations, Newcastle boasted a range of ‘firsts’ for Australia including the operational use of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and wireless image transfer to support boarding operations.
“Newcastle became the first Australian ship to conduct a deployed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle trial using a catapult-launched ScanEagle,” Commander Sirois said
“The ScanEagle allowed us to watch what the crews of suspicious vessels were doing after having recovered our Seahawk helicopter, or to provide coverage while the helicopter was engaged in other tasking.”
During the deployment the ScanEagle provided excellent service, logging 235 hours of flying time.
“A manned aircraft is great because you have people on the spot making decisions, but an unmanned system brings superior endurance,” Commander Sirois said.
Newcastle was also the first ship deployed with an imagery transfer system.
Sailors in the boarding party could take photos with mobile phone-size devices and quickly transfer images back to the ops room via a router on the ship’s boat.
This new solution was much faster than the old method of having camera cards ferried back to the ship.
“It was a deployment of ‘firsts’, but sadly there were a few ‘lasts,” Commander Sirois said.
“Newcastle’s deployment will be the last by an Adelaide class guided missile frigate to the Middle East.”
Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East, Major General John Frewen, said Newcastle’s deployment was part of Australia’s contribution to a secure and stable maritime environment in the Middle East, including key sea lines of communication.
“Royal Australian Navy ships have conducted maritime operations in this region for 65 rotations over some 27 years,” he said.
“Newcastle made a significant contribution to ensuring a secure and stable maritime environment in the Middle East.
“This was an excellent last tour by a fine crew and ship with a proud history.”
Newcastle returns home to Sydney in December.