A year of small ships doing big things

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), LSIS Tara Byrne (photographer), LSIS Kayla Jackson (photographer), LSIS Christopher Szumlanski (photographer), SGT Matthew Bickerton (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Mermaid (A02), HMAS Paluma (A01), HMAS Melville (A246), HMAS Leeuwin (A245), HMAS Diamantina (M86), HMAS Gascoyne (M85)

HMAS Leeuwin transits in the Hinatuan Passage during the commemorative service for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Philippines, October 2019. (photo: LSIS Tara Byrne)
HMAS Leeuwin transits in the Hinatuan Passage during the commemorative service for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Philippines, October 2019.

The vessels and teams of Navy’s Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological, Oceanographic and Patrol Force might be among the smallest in the Fleet, but their achievements in 2019 rival those of the largest major surface ships.

Commander of the group colloquially known as MHP Force, Captain Bryan Parker, said these ships, historically used in missions near to Australian waters, had sailed some of the furthest distances of any ships in the Fleet this year.

“Our activities this year have taught us how to deploy further from Australia and manage the logistics of multiple vessels, something normally limited to large task groups with a supply ship,” Captain Parker said.

Hydrographic Survey vessel HMAS Leeuwin and Minehunter Coastal HMAS Diamantina deployed to the eastern coast of Sri Lanka early in 2019 in search of the lost destroyer HMAS Vampire (I).

“That deployment was the farthest any of Navy’s hydrographic survey ships have sailed from Australia and Leeuwin proved she could provide logistics support to the smaller Diamantina to set a new distance and endurance capability,” Captain Parker said.

Meanwhile HMAS Melville supported Operation SOLOMON ISLANDS ELECTION ASSIST to help contribute to a safe election process.

Leeuwin has since deployed overseas twice more to East Asia and Melville has recently deployed to the Southwest Pacific to conduct vital surveys for Australia’s regional neighbours.

HMA Ships Mermaid and Paluma also conducted regional engagement activities in the vicinity of Manus Island this year, marking the first time four Hydrographic Vessels have been deployed on-task overseas since the Second World War.

HMAS Diamantina followed up her deployment to Sri Lanka with a mission to Japan and Korea with sister ship Gascoyne, setting multiple records.

Diamantina sailed both the farthest west and north of any minehunter in Australian history and has also sailed the most nautical miles in a year which is an outstanding achievement for a ship of her size,” Captain Parker said.

“Our minehunters also proved that they can sustain a Task Group staff at sea, emulating how groups of larger ships operate together and becoming a force multiplier for Navy.”

Armidale class and Cape class Patrol Boats continued to maintain border security as part of Operation RESOLUTE, amongst other activities.

“Patrol boats are the backbone of our border security commitment and the work they do is amongst the hardest across the Navy, but they’ve also done an excellent job supporting Operation AUGURY in the Philippines and as part of our enhanced regional engagement missions with nations across the Indo-Pacific, and in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE alongside major fleet units,” Captain Parker said. 

Captain Parker said MHP Force’s Clearance Dive Teams had achieved some of most hard-earned milestones for the year with members deploying around the world.

“Clearance Divers have been part of our highest profile activities in 2019, including Operation MANITOU in the Middle East Region, multinational exercise in Australia and Asia and continuing their vital role in the disposal of explosive ordnance in the Pacific under Operation RENDER SAFE,” Captain Parker said.

“In 2020 we anticipate repeating, and in many cases building on, the achievements from this year, and I fully expect our MHP Force teams will do just that,” he said.