Maritime Advanced Force key to amphibious operations

Published on LEUT Jessica Craig (author and photographer)

Location(s): Northern Tasmania

Topic(s): HMAS Diamantina (M86), HMAS Huon (M82), Australian Clearance Diving Team ONE, Fleet Certification Period

Clearance Divers from Australian Clearance Diving Team One transit between locations to search for inert training mines during Mine Counter-Measure Operations as part of Fleet Certification Period 2020. (photo: Lieutenant Jessica Craig)
Clearance Divers from Australian Clearance Diving Team One transit between locations to search for inert training mines during Mine Counter-Measure Operations as part of Fleet Certification Period 2020.

A Maritime Advanced Force task unit has successfully demonstrated Navy’s ability to open and maintain sea lanes for amphibious operations during Fleet Certification Period 2020.

The task unit, comprising of Australian Clearance Diving Team One (AUSCDT ONE) and minehunters Huon and Diamantina, worked together to provide a persistent forward presence by undertaking mine clearance operations in Tasmanian waters to safely clear a route for an amphibious landing.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Huon and Task Unit Commander, Lieutenant Commander Robert Short, said unit elements each took on different roles to create a positive combined effect.

“HMAS Huon and Diamantina predominately worked in waters greater than 12 metres and used their two Mine Disposable Vehicles on-board to clear mines ahead of the force,” Lieutenant Commander Short said.

“Clearance Diving Team One worked in depths less than 12 metres and cleared the beach access.”

During the exercise, AUSCDT ONE’s beach clearance was focused on anti-invasion mines which are a very real threat to amphibious forces and a cost-effective and easy way for adversaries to deny access to land and sea.

“Anti-invasion mines are smaller and targeted towards landing craft and amphibious vehicles,” AUSCDT ONE Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Clearance Officer, Lieutenant Douglas Allen said.

“Their capabilities range from basic contact to magnetic, acoustic, seismic pressure and any sensors that are able to fit into the package.

“There are also a number of challenges we face when clearing mines such as strong tidal currents, rocky sea beds and seaweed forests which largely hinder our ability to locate and identify mines.”

To “link” the two operational areas, a new Mine Counter-Measure capability was tested with Navy Innovations Team working with Defence Science and Technology Group to integrate Automated Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) into the operation.

“The AUVs are a step change for the Australian Navy in that we can search, locate, identify and potentially prosecute mines with our people outside the mine field,” Lieutenant Commander Short said.

“The more distance we can put between a potential explosion and our people, the safer and potentially more accurate it will be as we integrate autonomous activities and human processing power.”

Lieutenant Commander Short said FCP20 has been a positive exercise for the task unit who took the opportunity to work out better engagement processes with the ever-adapting Maritime Task Group.

“Operating with the Maritime Task Group has been very beneficial in ironing out our reporting requirements and making sure we have a clear message when the beach is ready for the Task Group to conduct amphibious operations,” Lieutenant Commander Short said.

Fleet Certification Period 2020 wrapped up on 6 March, with participating units now prepared to deploy during the year ahead.