The Battle Tanker returns

Published on LEUT Vishal Bhakoo (author), LSCSO Matthew Limb (photographer), LEUT Kedar Shah (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Choules (L100), HMAS Success (OR 304), Replenishment at Sea (RAS)

HMAS Success and HMAS Choules conduct a Replenishment at Sea. (photo: LSCSO Matthew Limb)
HMAS Success and HMAS Choules conduct a Replenishment at Sea.

There is always an air of expectation when a Royal Australian Navy ship heads off on a deployment; even more so after a long period of maintenance. So the crew were understandably excited when HMAS Success departed Fleet Base East on 17 February and rendezvoused with HMAS Choules off Sydney that evening.

The feeling built as Success took on board an MRH-90 helicopter at dusk, and continued as the two ships spent the night in company in preparation for Success’ first Replenishment at Sea (RAS) of 2014 and Choules’ first with an RAN ship. Anticipation reached a peak as the two ships closed to within 140 feet of one another for the historic – and successful – replenishment.

A second RAS was later performed on the opposite side of each ship, after which Choules accompanied Success for a while as she headed away from home port. Commander Ashley Papp, RAN, the Commanding Officer of Choules, shared his excitement at seeing ‘these two great ships operating together,’ adding that his team ‘gained priceless in-company training and exposure opportunities.’

Commanding Officer Success, Captain Allison Norris RAN and her crew were no less satisfied with the opportunity to demonstrate that the RAN’s battle tanker is back to full mission capability.

That capability includes the ability to RAS from both port and starboard sides, utilising four separate stations. Up to two ships can be accommodated, replenishing each with fuel, potable water and solids. Success’ capability is significantly enhanced by the embarked MRH-90 helicopter, which can provide medevac assistance, passenger transfer, vertical replenishment, transfer of stores and search and rescue – it can carry 22 personnel (four crew, 18 passengers) and travel at speeds of up to 165 knots.

In future, the flight will add the capabilities of fast roping, a Mag 58 machine gun, and chaff and flare for defence against surface to air missiles. And, as Navy’s core asset is its people, 808 Squadron’s flight crew are a welcome and enthusiastic addition to Success’ compliment.

Chief Petty Officer Johnstone, the MRH-90 Flight Senior Maintenance Sailor commented that he “looks forward to the aviation team integrating with Ship’s Company and operating in a maritime environment.”

HMAS Success has now commenced a busy operational period, which will extend well into 2015.

Success’ embarked Multi Role Helicopter (MRH)- 90 Taipan launches to the the port side of Success during helicopter operations.

Success’ embarked Multi Role Helicopter (MRH)- 90 Taipan launches to the the port side of Success during helicopter operations.

Able Seaman Electronics Technician Schipper handles the communications line during a Replenishment at Sea between HMAS Success and HMAS Choules.

Able Seaman Electronics Technician Schipper handles the communications line during a Replenishment at Sea between HMAS Success and HMAS Choules.