Minehunters achieve first raft refuel exercise with JMSDF

This article has photo gallery Published on CMDR Kelli Lunt (author and photographer), LCDR Daniel Lister (photographer), JMSDF photographer (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Diamantina (M86), HMAS Gascoyne (M85), Replenishment at Sea (RAS)

HMAS Diamantina (86) rafts up to Japanese Ship Uraga for a replenishment at sea. (photo: JMSDF photographer)
HMAS Diamantina (86) rafts up to Japanese Ship Uraga for a replenishment at sea.

In a first for the Royal Australian Navy, HMA Ships Diamantina and Gascoyne completed a complex dual refuel and stores replenishment with Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Japanese Ship (JS) Uraga.

The evolution involved the two Huon class minehunters ‘rafting’ up to the anchored Mine Sweep Tender and taking on a combined 32,000 litres of fuel and three days-worth of food stores each.

Completed during Exercise HYUGA NADA - a mine countermeasures exercise off the coast of Miyazaki, Japan - the raft exercise was the culmination of more than 12 months of planning.

Commander Task Group, Commander Brett Dawe, said it was a very significant achievement in deepening the Royal Australian Navy’s connection with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and for the minehunter capability.

“Operationally this was a momentous achievement for navy to improve our interoperability with JMSDF,” Commander Dawe said.

“This raft exercise was conducted by a relatively small task group and required coordination of people, parts and relationships.

“The performance of all three teams was flawless in ensuring success and safety,” he said.

The refuelling concept was borne during the inaugural Exercise HYUGA NADA, when participating ships Gascoyne and Huon rafted to JS Bungo in 2018. A raft replenishment was then conducted between Diamantina and HMAS Leeuwin earlier this year.

The conditions were challenging for this evolution, due to the different sizes and functionalities of the platforms and the unfavourable swell and weather.

Commanding Officer of Diamantina, Lieutenant Commander Darren McDevitt, said this vital re-supply was important for the deployment and planning occurred with the JMSDF and across engineering, logistics, policy, seamanship and operations disciplines.

“After a significant amount of engagement with our Japanese partners, and many technical drawings later, the re-fuel pumping was understood – and critically – a hose connection was manufactured and approved for use,” Lieutenant Commander McDevitt said.

“The JMSDF do this process regularly, and JS Uraga was well set up with lines and fenders.

“When conducting a Replenishment at Sea in this manner, the ships are only a few metres apart, so there was much friendly banter between the two crews; between old friends, and some new ones.

“The replenishment had a critical function as there were very few opportunities for logistical re-supply in the Exercise area to continue the deployment.”

Commanding Officer of Gascoyne, Lieutenant Commander Sean Aitken, said this milestone was satisfying for Gascoyne, despite the conditions.

“It was pleasing to be able to see the culmination of the planning efforts that has gone into this evolution and even better that Gascoyne was able to finish what they started last year.

“Rafting to a foreign warship while at anchor, in very challenging conditions, and then passing fuel, is not something that MHCs (Mine Hunter Coastals) practice often.

“There are several members of Gascoyne that were onboard last year for the first iteration with JS Bungo, including Gascoyne’s Ship’s Technical Officer, Chief Petty Officer Dave Walker, whose planning and technical expertise was instrumental to the success. 

“Being able to successfully complete the rafting and having passed fuel and food (including a vital resupply of Tim Tams and Vegemite which was passed to the embarked Commander Task Group onboard JS Uraga) was one of the highlights of the exercise for the crew,” Lieutenant Commander Aitken said.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20193104.