HMAS Leeuwin has achieved a series of significant milestones since her new crew was assembled several months ago - including their first overseas deployment as a ship’s company.
The hydrographic survey ship is currently on her way home from South Asia.
While the vessel herself has deployed overseas before, this is the first time she’s done so with a permanent ship’s company since recently reverting from a multi-crewing model to a single crew model.
Leeuwin and minehunter HMAS Diamantina recently conducted a search for the lost Australian warship HMAS Vampire (I) near Batticaloa on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast, in conjunction with the Sri Lankan Navy.
While there was no clear nor indicative physical trace of the missing World War Two destroyer, the expedition was a valuable way to test the skills of both crews in a new part of the world, working with regional partners.
“The search was challenging as both ships had to navigate within a busy fishing zone, with some areas being more than a kilometre deep and numerous undersea objects that needed to be disproved,” Maritime Geospatial Officer (Hydrographic) Lieutenant Shaun Mendez said.
“We used first-hand accounts from survivors of the battle in which Vampire was lost, photographic records from the attacking aircraft, data from previous searches and the nearby wreck of HMS Hermes as reference points to conduct the most comprehensive search to date.”
The deployment was also the furthest any of Navy’s hydrographic survey ships have sailed from Australia and saw Leeuwin providing logistics support to the smaller Diamantina, proving a new distance and endurance capability.
Commanding Officer Commander Richard Mortimer said options to deploy Leeuwin or her sister ship Melville in company with minor war vessels were now greater thanks to the lessons of the current deployment.
“This deployment through Asia has taught us how to deploy further from Australia and manage the logistics of multiple vessels, something normally limited to large task groups with a supply ship,” he said.
Commander Mortimer said his crew had now pivoted to conducting a series of damage control exercises and boat training serials on the return transit to Australia, in anticipation of more challenges ahead this year.
“We deployed in early February and have been consistently busy, planning for port visits throughout South East Asia, preparing for and undertaking the significant search for HMAS Vampire, and making sure we stay current in regular skills like firefighting and flood stopping,” he said.
“This has made for a busy program, but I’m proud of the ship’s company for managing these demands while working with HMAS Diamantina and putting our best feet forward with regional partners.
“We’ve proven new capabilities and achieved a lot this deployment, and I think it places us in a strong position to do what’s needed the next time we’re tasked,” Commander Mortimer said.
HMAS Leeuwin will return to her homeport in Cairns in April for a short rest period and is expected to spend more time deployed this year.