HMAS Waterhen building capability for Navy and its partners

Published on LEUT Harley Slatter (author), CMDR Nick Watson (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Waterhen, Sydney

Topic(s): HMAS Waterhen

A variety of Navy, Australian Defence Vessel and Department of Maritime Services craft alongside HMAS Waterhen, just before HMA Ships Gascoyne and Huon departed for their north-east Asia deployment. Vessels include a Cape Class Patrol Boat, Multi-role Aviation Training Vessel Sycamore, LHD Landing Craft, DMS Seahorse Mercator and Minehunter Coastals. (photo: CMDR Nick Watson)
A variety of Navy, Australian Defence Vessel and Department of Maritime Services craft alongside HMAS Waterhen, just before HMA Ships Gascoyne and Huon departed for their north-east Asia deployment. Vessels include a Cape Class Patrol Boat, Multi-role Aviation Training Vessel Sycamore, LHD Landing Craft, DMS Seahorse Mercator and Minehunter Coastals.

Three decades ago there was debate about whether or not the small establishment of HMAS Waterhen was surplus to Defence requirements.

It was decided that it would provide continued service and be a key component to Navy’s future. Today Waterhen provides support, training and a variety of services to Defence and other federal bodies.

On any given day you will find a mix of assets from Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological and Patrol Force, Surface Force or Defence Maritime Services (DMS), and maybe visiting ships involved in border protection duties. 

Commander Nick Watson, Commanding Officer Waterhen has close involvement with these partners in the greater Australian defence community and is part of the team planning for Navy’s future success. 

“Looking out across the wharf and seeing Minehunter Coastals, a Cape Class Patrol Boat, Multi-role Aviation Training Vessel Sycamore, LHD Landing Craft and DMS Seahorse Mercator being supported here highlights our capability to work as part of a team,” Commander Watson said.

Executive Officer Waterhen, Lieutenant Commander David Hellier, explains why this establishment is crucial to future development. 

“Most people know of Waterhen’s links to the Navy diving community and the work we do with Surface Force and Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological and Patrol Force,” Lieutenant Commander Hellier said.

“They don’t often think about how the wharf assets, training assets, equipment and expertise can also be used in helping operational headquarters achieve their goals as part of our national and international defence capability.” 

Looking beyond tomorrow, Navy is building a highly focussed and specialised Waterhen to complement its current standing as the centre of excellence for mine warfare training.

“We are all working  to provide even better support to deployable assets such as Australian Clearance Diving Team One, Australian Mine Warfare Team 16 (AUSMWT 16) and Deployable Geospatial Survey Team (DGST).

“Units supported by Shore Force from Waterhen such as AUSMWT 16 and DGST are critical to reaching the aims of Plan Pelorus,” said LCDR Hellier.

“These units are introducing new exciting capabilities in Rapid Environmental Assessment and all the units in Waterhen have a big part to play in supporting these capabilities.”