Warfare serials unite Red Force for KAKADU final Battle

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), LSIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): Darwin, Northern Territory

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06), Exercise KAKADU

HMAS Newcastle fires a round from its 76mm gun during an anti-air warfare serial at Exercise Kakadu 2016.  (photo: LSIS Justin Brown)
HMAS Newcastle fires a round from its 76mm gun during an anti-air warfare serial at Exercise Kakadu 2016.

Just three days into the sea phase of Exercise KAKADU, a task group of six international warships has been locked in a steady battle of anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.

The ‘Red Force’ task group is made up of a Japanese destroyer, an American destroyer, an Indonesia corvette and a Malaysian frigate, and is being led by the Australian Navy frigate, HMAS Newcastle

The task group’s first challenge arrived at dawn on day one when it responded to a surface threat by forming an offensive line and firing their main guns at a target the size of a small boat almost eight kilometres away.

The next day, Red Force defended itself against a heavy air attack, following which each ship in the task group used its main gun to fire at a target towed 400 metres behind a Lear jet.

One of Newcastle’s Principal Warfare Officers, Lieutenant Commander Liam Walters, coordinated Red Force in both air defence serials. 

“Communications were exceptional with the regional partners coming together to achieve successful outcomes in each serial,” Lieutenant Commander Walters said.

“The ships worked together effectively and shots were on target.”

Night offered little respite from the hectic pace of Exercise KAKADU, with the group’s crews practicing submarine detection, deterrence and prosecution.

During one exercise, five ships closed and continuously attacked an 'enemy' submarine attempting to get through their patrol area.
Newcastle
’s Principal Warfare Officer – Surface Warfare, Lieutenant Courtney Kruger, said many hands made light work when it came to submarine hunts.

“We are achieving co-ordinated tracking and attacks on the submarine and we are all improving at using proper  tactical coordination procedures,” Lieutenant Kruger said. 

“It’s pleasing to see everybody across the task group is progressing and developing their skill sets, not only in warfare, but also in interoperability.”

Eighteen warships are taking part in Exercise KAKADU, which is the Royal Australian Navy’s largest and most exciting multi-lateral exercise.

HMAS Warramunga, an Australian helicopter frigate, leads the ‘Blue Force’ task group which also includes a Canadian frigate and two Singaporean corvettes.

Two Australian submarines, patrol boats from Australia and Papua New Guinea and 18 aircraft  from across the region are also involved in the exercise.  

Red Force and Blue Force will operate independently for the first six days so regional partners can practice working together and coordinate operating procedures, after which the preparedness and cohesion of the two forces will be tested when they battle each other for disputed maritime territory. 

Red Force leader and Newcastle’s Commanding Officer, Commander Mark Sirois, believes his task group has positioned itself well for the final battle.

“Our task group has been able to use the first five days of force integration training exceptionally well. 

“There have been some trials but we have learned and improved a lot, and are coming together as an extremely effective task group,” Commander Sirois said. 

Newcastle
 is a long range escort vessel capable of air defence, surface and undersea warfare, surveillance, reconnaissance and interdiction. The ship can counter simultaneous threats from aircraft, surface vessels and submarines.

Exercise KAKADU finishes on 23 September.