A legacy that many Australians may not be aware of is the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) presence in the Middle East since Operation DAMASK in September 1990.
Australia’s current commitment is in support of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 30 nation naval partnership which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes. This includes a major fleet unit, currently HMAS Darwin, a logistics support element, several key leadership roles within the CMF headquarters, and currently, command of Combined Task Forces (CTF) 150.
CTF-150 has responsibility for maritime security and counter terrorism focussed operations, and works alongside sister task forces 151 and 152, responsible for counter piracy and Arabian Gulf security and cooperation respectively. One of the key objectives of all three is to improve the security of the maritime domain.
Undertaking his second tour to the Middle East, CTF-150 Battle Watch Assistant LSCSO Shayne Brandon has seen the improvement in the relationship between Australia, CMF and maritime forces in the region.
“Each day we contact maritime operational centres throughout the Middle East and East Africa region. Initially this was little more than a communications check, but we have steadily developed the relationship to the point where there is a fluid exchange of information,” LS Brandon said.
CTF-150 Plans Officer LCDR Jason Mullen explains the importance of this information exchange:
“One of the goals of the CMF is to encourage regional cooperation. Building on these established relationships gives us the very best opportunity to respond to incidents as they occur, whether that is a criminal act, environmental disaster, or a survival of life at sea incident,” LCDR Mullen said.
The RAN contribution to CMF will continue as part of the broader Australian Defence Force mission in the Middle East Area of Operations under Operation SLIPPER.