For Commodore Ivan Ingham, success in 2019 may be measured by how empty the berths at Fleet Base East have been.
Responsible for the generation, certification and command of the Royal Australian Navy’s deployed task groups, the year has seen an exceptional surge in Australian maritime operations across the Indo-Pacific region.
In his role as Commodore Flotillas (COMFLOT), Commodore Ingham oversees the process of delivering trained, tested and tuned maritime task groups ready for operations.
Under him, the Force Generation Division builds complex exercises designed to assess task groups’ capability across all areas of maritime warfare, while the Fleet Battle Staff - comprising the Maritime Task Group (MTG), Amphibious Task Group (ATG) and Maritime Component Commander Element (MCCE) staffs - provide the essential Command and Control (C2) functions to operational commanders.
Commodore Ingham said the significant government investment in Navy’s Fleet has been matched by organisational change that has transformed Navy’s ability to deploy powerful maritime task groups in a sustained fashion.
“This year the newly-established MTG staff have spent over 200 days deployed in the lead of substantial maritime forces, supporting the INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR deployment, participating in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE, as well as leading an enhanced regional engagement mission through East Asia as far north as Japan.
“This level of effort is almost unparalleled in recent years and represents the new normal for Australian maritime operations as we demonstrate our regional reach and capability,” Commodore Ingham said.
Meanwhile, ATG staff – focussed on littoral and amphibious operations – has also had a landmark year with Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2019 placing Landing Helicopter Docks (LHD) Adelaide and Canberra at the centre of Australia’s largest military training event, achieving Full Operational Capability (FOC) for the amphibious force.
“The achievement of FOC is the realisation of a decade of development in the amphibious capability space, and we can be justifiably proud of ATG’s contribution to that,” Commodore Ingham said.
“Australia is now able to deliver and deploy the full scope of amphibious operations whenever and wherever they are required by Government.”
At the same time, while TALISMAN SABRE tested ATG’s and MTG’s capabilities at sea, ashore it also saw MCCE exercise its core function as the C2 element for COMFLOT himself as the exercise Maritime Component Commander.
“MCCE established the largest and most capable operations centre ashore,” Commodore Ingham said.
“From there they were able to support three separate task forces of ships at sea and manage the entire maritime component of the exercise.”
As 2019 draws to a close, planning for the next 12 months is well underway.
“Next year is going to be another challenging one for the COMFLOT Branch, commencing with a revitalised Fleet Certification Period off the east coast of Australia in February,” Commodore Ingham said.
“This will be followed by multiple MTG and ATG deployments throughout the region as well as a strong Navy presence at RIMPAC, the largest maritime naval exercise in the world.”
“As I hand over the COMFLOT role at the start of next year, I reflect on the importance of Fleet to Navy and Navy to Joint operations as we continue to promote Australia and our national interests across the region.
“I am extremely proud of the commitment and dedication of the men and women of the COMFLOT Branch and the work they are doing together to enable a more capable and lethal warfighting Fleet,” Commodore Ingham said.
It looks like the berths at Fleet Base East will be quiet again in 2020.