Commander of Australian Maritime Task Force at RIMPAC makes history

Published on LCDR Todd Fitzgerald (author), LSIS Ernesto Sanchez (photographer)

Location(s): Pearl Harbor, USA

Topic(s): Exercise RIMPAC, Regional Presence Deployment

Captain Phillipa Hay, on the bridge of HMAS Hobart, is the first female commander of a task force in the 49-year history of Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2020. (photo: LSIS Ernesto Sanchez)
Captain Phillipa Hay, on the bridge of HMAS Hobart, is the first female commander of a task force in the 49-year history of Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2020.

Captain Phillipa Hay of the Royal Australian Navy has become the first Australian woman appointed to command a task force in the 49-year history of Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).

From 17 to 31 August, Captain Hay will command more than 2500 sailors and officers across 11 warships from Australia, Japan, Canada, US, France, and Philippines.

She will lead them into complex high-end warfighting scenarios, including multiple missile firings and a war-at-sea serial.

Captain Hay acknowledged the honour of being the first non-US female military officer appointed to the role, but preferred to focus on representing the men and women of the RAN and leading her task force.

“RIMPAC is a test of Australia’s maritime military capability, from warfighting exercises to the missile firings,” she said.

“It provides complex and challenging training in a multinational environment, perfect for strengthening interoperability with our regional partners and allies.

“I am proud to be part of an Australian force which, with our partners and allies, can continue to train and operate in these challenging times. It demonstrates our collective true grit and resilience.”

Captain Hay has always been a trailblazer.

At age 10, she sailed around the world with her family.

In 1993, she joined the RAN and was selected for an exchange with the United States Navy in USS John Young as part of the Middle East Force (MEF).

She was the first female to qualify as a ship’s diver and first female to serve in the Australian Minor War Vessel Sea Training Group.

Last year, Captain Hay also became the inaugural task group commander of Australia’s regional engagement mission in the South West Pacific.

She said she has found her niche in the RAN, which affords its people the room to succeed regardless of gender, sexuality or religion.

“In the Royal Australian Navy, there are no limitations,” Captain Hay said.

“We pride ourselves on richness of diversity and being a reflection of the Australian community. I look around and see only proud sailors and Officers serving the RAN and Australia. I hope my journey serves as an inspiration to all who wish to serve.”

Captain Hay said her success in the Navy is driven by a desire to contribute to the harmony and stability of the region, and know that her children will benefit and enjoy a peaceful life.

For that reason, she is proud to be a participant in RIMPAC alongside like-minded nations.

“International naval cooperation ensures maritime security and stability,” Captain Hay said.

“The global maritime environment is too large and complex for any one nation to safeguard. RIMPAC helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of our seas security on the world’s oceans.”

Hosted by Commander US Pacific Fleet, RIMPAC is a biennial maritime exercise that will be an at-sea-only event this year in light of COVID-19 concerns.

Since 1971, Australia’s participation in RIMPAC has helped foster and sustain the partnerships that secure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

This year, HMA Ships HobartStuartArunta and Sirius are taking part in RIMPAC as part of their Regional Presence Deployment through Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Ten nations, 22 surface ships, one submarine, multiple aircraft, and approximately 5300 personnel are participating in RIMPAC this year.

This year’s exercise includes forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, France, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United States.

Imagery for RIMPAC 2020 is available for viewing/download from the Navy Image Library.