What a year for our submarines

Published on Mr Andrew Bujdegan (author), CPOIS David Connolly (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Waller (S75), HMAS Sheean (S77), HMAS Farncomb (S74), HMAS Dechaineux (S76)

HMAS Dechaineux leads HMAS Waller and HMAS Sheean in formation. (photo: CPOIS David Connolly)
HMAS Dechaineux leads HMAS Waller and HMAS Sheean in formation.

2013 has been an eventful and exciting year for the submarines of the Royal Australian Navy. Manned by enthusiastic crews and with an effective support network, the submarines were out and about doing ‘their thing’.

With the assistance of the Submarine Force Headquarters, Submarine Support Group, Fleet Logistic Support Element (Submarines), Submarine System and Training Centre and other numerous uniformed and un-uniformed agencies of the submarine enterprise, they spent 426 days at sea, and 105 days visiting 11 Australian and overseas ports throughout the year.

The start of the year saw a fresh HMAS Sheean emerge from her Full Cycle Docking in Adelaide, complete licensing trials and then get straight into activities. Under the command of Commander Richard Smallwood, Sheean visited Sydney, Darwin, Devonport and Singapore, participated in Exercise TRITON STORM, conducted exercises with RAAF P3 Orion aircraft and also deploy to South East Asia.

HMAS Dechaineux, commanded by Commander James Lybrand visit Singapore and Sepanggar (this was the first visit to this port by a Collins Class Submarine), participate in Exercises BERSAMA SHIELD and PLATYPUS MOON and conduct exercises with RAAF P3 Orions before entering Mid Cycle Docking at Henderson, Western Australia in early July.

HMAS Farncomb wasn’t taking it easy either, visiting Sydney and Hobart before coming home to Fleet Base West. Farncomb, under the command of Commander Byron Williamson kept the crew busy by participating in a variety of activities such as the United States Navy Submarine Command Course, Exercises LUNGFISH and TRITON CENTENARY, as well as the Submarine Escape Exercise BLACK CARILLION. She also provided support to the Principle Warfare Officers Assessment Week, Submariners Warfare Officers Course and HMAS Darwins’ Mission Readiness Evaluation.

The highlight of Farncomb’s year was her involvement at the International Fleet Review (IFR), where the crew were privileged to be part of the once in a lifetime spectacular.

HMAS Waller has also been extremely busy under the command of Commander Michael Jacobson. She visited Sydney, Cairns, Guam, Yokosuka and Kure in Japan. Exercises participated in during her north East Asian Deployment included TALISMAN SABRE, PACIFIC REACH and NICHI TRIDENT.

While the submarines were out and about, the Submarine Escape Capability was exercised during Exercise BLACK CARILLION. This year the rescue exercise was conducted from an Australian port outside the West Australian Exercise Area (WAXA), which required an airlift of the James Fisher Submarine Rescue System (JFSRS). This initiative comprised of numerous ‘firsts’ in the deployment of this capability, including mobilisation of JFSRS to ADV Ocean Shield, identifying the capabilities of the vessel and conducting an over the side method of launch and recovery of the submersible LR5 rescue submersible.

Other firsts included mobilisation of the rescue and hyperbaric system outside of Western Australia and the airlift by two sorties of RAAF C-17 Globe Master aircraft of LR5 and the Remotely Operated Vehicle - Scorpio. Twelve semi trailers were also used to move a variety of other BLACK CARILLION equipment across the continent by road.

At the recent annual Submarine Forum, Commander Submarine Force, Captain Mark Potter reiterated the achievements of the Submarine Force in 2013.

“Members of the submarine enterprise should be immensely proud of their achievements in 2013,” he said.

“A lot of exceptional work has been done to achieve these results and it provides a good precursor to 2014.”