The Australian warship HMAS Newcastle has transited through the Strait of Hormuz near the end of her second month-long maritime security patrol since arriving in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) in May.
The Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf, is the busiest passageway for oil tankers in the world and is considered to be one of the most strategic bodies of water on the planet.
Oil tankers use the strait to transport much of the oil produced in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the rest of the world.
Newcastle travelled through the strait on her way to Bahrain, after completing a successful month of counter terrorism operations in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and counter piracy operations in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC).
Newcastle Principal Warfare Officer, Lieutenant Alisha Withers said it was important to maintain a military presence in the Strait of Hormuz.
“The strong Coalition military presence in the strait reinforces our resolve, that we are dedicated to keeping this passage open and safe for international trade,” she said.
The ship’s Boatswains Mates kept watch on the upper decks for nine hours in the scorching sun while the Australian warship steamed through the narrow body of water which separates Iran from the UAE and Oman.
Lieutenant Withers said it was normal practice to close up weapons crews while transiting through the Strait of Hormuz.
“It is not uncommon to be approached by small vessels armed with anything from small arms to machine guns. While these interactions are usually non-threatening, it is important that we present as a ‘hard target’,”she said.
“This posture we exhibit not only provides us with an immediate avenue to defend ourselves should the situation escalate, but also shows any potentially threatening vessels that we are not an easy target and shouldn't be interfered with.”
After safely exiting the Strait of Hormuz, Newcastle continued on her way to Bahrain to recharge, resupply and conduct continuation training with the United States Navy.
The Australian warship will complete two further maritime security patrols in conjunction with coalition forces before handing over Operation SLIPPER duties to HMAS Melbourne in September.
Operation SLIPPER is the Australian Defence Force contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement.
Newcastle’s deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990. She is due to return to Sydney in October.
More imagery available at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20131000.