Cristóbal Colón heads home

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), ABIS Bonny Gassner (photographer), LSIS Bradley Darvill (photographer), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Hobart (D39)

The crew of ESPS Cristobal Colon of the Spanish Armada stand on the flight deck as their ship enters Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, Australia. (photo: ABIS Bonny Gassner)
The crew of ESPS Cristobal Colon of the Spanish Armada stand on the flight deck as their ship enters Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, Australia.

Following a successful four months on the Australia Station, the Spanish Armada’s ESPS Cristóbal Colón will spend her final days off the east coast of Australia before commencing a 13,000 mile journey home on 19 June.  

During her time embedded with the Royal Australian Navy fleet she has welcomed and inducted more than 200 Australian sailors. This equates to roughly 90 per cent of the ship’s company of the destroyer Hobart due to join the Australian fleet in 2017.

Cristóbal Colón, a sister ship to Australia’s three new Spanish-designed Hobart class guided missile destroyers, operates the state-of-the-art Aegis combat system as well as other sophisticated life support systems to be used in the Australian destroyers.

Cristóbal Colón’s liaison officer Lieutenant Christopher Thornton said the ship had provided for a staggering 2,500 individual training days at sea.

Hobart sailors have been living aboard, working side by side with their Spanish counterparts and taking an active role in operating the ship,” he said.

As part of the sea familiarisation, officers and sailors from all ship departments from chefs to warfare officers have been completing familiarisation booklets that will add value to more structured classroom and simulator training.

“What we normally do is we provide training first and contextualise it afterwards, but with Cristóbal Colón we’re able to contextualise first and provide training afterwards,” Lieutenant Thornton said.

“In the case for combat system operators, 80 per cent of the combat system will be the same as in Hobart, so when the operators step on board they will be familiar with the consoles, and they will know what they’re looking at even if they haven’t done any courses yet.

“The intention is that the ship’s company of Hobart will have an accelerated acceptance time, partly due to the time they’ve spent onCristóbal Colón.”

The sea familiarisation hasn’t just been a benefit to Hobart’s ship’s company, with other Royal Australian Navy units and Cristóbal Colón herself capitalising on four months of combined training.

“An example of this is the 808 Squadron’s MRH90 helicopter night flying, which helped the aircrew gain night vision goggle certification but it also helped the ship gain valuable skills working with diverse elements of a foreign navy such as ourselves,” Lieutenant Thornton said.

Cristóbal Colón’s Training Officer Sub Lieutenant Joaquin Garat said making use of Australia’s vast military training areas had been a big highlight.

“We were able to maximise training in areas such as naval gunfire support because of fewer restrictions on the ranges here compared with Europe,” he said.

“Our ship’s company completed sea qualification trials just before we came out here so they’ve got an advanced knowledge of how to use the systems, but we haven’t had the chance to do it in a multinational task group yet, particularly with submarines.

“That’s been a very good part of our deployment, it’s boosted our training level and it’s allowed us to gain experience in areas we usually don’t get to.”