HMAS Sirius is currently providing replenishment support as part of Exercise TALISMAN SABRE on the back of successful trials of a new high-speed inflatable towed target system with an unmanned boat.
The system was developed to meet the Royal Australian Navy’s need for a low-cost expendable towed target for maritime training on the high seas.
The design allows for long-term un-attended operation, capable of being deployed and recovered from a warship using the standard ship’s crane, or pushed overboard manually. It can be deployed and recovered in wind and sea conditions in a mid-range sea state by four or five people.
It also has the ability to be deployed right at the wharf and towed to the operational area. While the system has previously been employed in surface-to surface naval gun training as well as in air-to-sea weapon training, this is the first time system has been trialled with the Barracuda Unmanned Surface Vehicle.
The Barracuda is a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, powered by a 225 hp marine diesel engine, capable of operating at speeds of up to 36 knots. It is remote controlled and can be equipped with visual, radar and laser signature enhancements to present a convincing likeness to many contemporary naval threats or, as in this case, can be fitted to tow a target.
Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems Ashleigh Dean said it was an impressive sight.
“It’s amazing how the system can pull a target along without the need of a boat crew or anything to steer it – I think it’s pretty cool,” Able Seaman Dean said.
As the Barracuda was skimming over the ocean in the calm waters of the Timor Sea, it didn’t take long for the crew of Sirius to nickname the remote controlled vessel ‘Barry’ or ‘Baz’ for short.
Leading Seaman Dean Jarzabek who was responsible for the deployment of ‘Barry’ prior to it being switched to ‘remote’ said it was challenging at first.
"Once we ironed out some of the teething problems, like getting the mast up, it worked great," he said.
Even the ship’s quartermaster got into the spirit on the last morning of the trial by waking up the crew with the song ‘Barracuda’ made famous by the rock band Heart in the 1970s.
TALISMAN SABRE is held every two years and incorporates activities at sea, on land and in the air to test and improve interoperability between Australia and the United States. Several dozen ships are participating across an exercise region that encompasses the Coral, Timor and Arafura Seas.