Merchant mariners transiting in proximity to Western Australia’s coastline last week were treated to the rare sight of five submarines underway in formation on the surface of the Indian Ocean.
Four Royal Australian Navy Collins class submarines, HMA Ships Dechaineux, Sheean, Collins and Farncomb, were joined in the West Australian Exercise Area by a United States Navy Los Angeles class fast attack submarine, the USS Santa Fe.
The five submarines were in the area to participate in a range of combined military activities, including exercises OCEAN EXPLORER and LUNGFISH.
While it’s rare to catch a glimpse of even one submarine at sea, all five rendezvoused off Fremantle, before returning to the depths to resume their tactical exercises.
Deputy Commander of the Royal Australian Navy’s Submarine Force, Commander Chris Forward said working with other Navies was a common practice for Australia’s submarine squadron.
“Our submariners never miss an opportunity to hone their skills and exercises like these provide an ideal opportunity to operate closely with our surface ships, submarines and aircraft, as well as with vessels from other countries, in a variety of complex scenarios,” he said.
Director General Submarines, Commodore Timothy Brown said although rarely seen, the Royal Australian Navy’s submarines were now achieving a high operational tempo and would be deploying throughout the region in 2019.
“Last year, our submarines spent more than 600 days at sea, which was the highest tempo ever achieved by the Collins class,” Commodore Brown said.
“We’re expecting them to spend closer to 700 days at sea this year, which is a boon for the Royal Australian Navy, because submarines are our primary offensive capability, offering stealth, range, endurance and weapons that can reach into an adversary’s waters and threaten or strike a range of targets.
“Submarines make the planning of military actions much harder for potential adversaries, and require a disproportionate effort to counter, making them a critical strategic asset for Australia.
“Over the past four years, the Royal Australian Navy has had a strong focus on growing our submarine workforce and enhancing the enterprise partnership between Navy, Defence and Industry, and these things have underpinned the operational success of the Collins class in recent times,” Commodore Brown said.
Don’t expect to see this spectacle again any time soon though, because while operating in company may be common place for the Royal Australian Navy’s submariners, a five-sub-on-the-surface photo shoot is a rarely seen phenomenon.