Navy ships return home after “enormously successful” regional deployment

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Tanalee Smith (author), LSIS Nadav Harel (photographer), LSIS Christopher Szumlanski (photographer), ABIS Leon Dafonte Fernandez (photographer)

Location(s): Fleet Base East

Topic(s): HMAS Hobart (D39), Return to Australia, Regional Presence Deployment

Personnel from HMAS Hobart wave to family and friends at her home Port at Fleet Base East, Sydney, after nearly four-months away on a Regional Presence Deployment. (photo: LSIS Nadav Harel)
Personnel from HMAS Hobart wave to family and friends at her home Port at Fleet Base East, Sydney, after nearly four-months away on a Regional Presence Deployment.

HMAS Hobart and her more than 230 crew members have returned home to Sydney, marking the end of the Royal Australian Navy’s largest and most challenging deployment this year.

The Air Warfare Destroyer, along with HMA Ships CanberraStuartArunta and Sirius, began Regional Presence Deployment (RPD) on 5 July, deploying from Darwin.

Over three months, the five-ship Task Group exercised with 11 nations across Southeast Asia, enhancing Australia’s ability to operate with partner nations during security challenges and times of humanitarian crisis.

The warships also took part in the world’s largest maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), in Hawaii.

Commander of the Task Group, Captain Phillipa Hay, CSC, RAN, said the mission had been “enormously successful”, and was achieved during a pandemic through hard work and “true blue Australian strength of character”.

“We have demonstrated Australia’s ongoing commitment to the region, in good times and bad, and further developed our interoperability and cohesiveness with partner nations, maintaining a secure, stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific” Captain Hay said.

The ships achieved a number of milestones during RPD:

  • They exercised with 11 regional partners, including Brunei, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Republic of Singapore, and the US;

  • They conducted advanced air-sea integration drills with the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy in waters off Guam;

  • Canberra participated in the successful search and rescue of three sailors in the Federated States of Micronesia;

  • Hobart, Stuart and Arunta successfully conducted live missile firings at RIMPAC;

  • Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters successfully fired Hellfire missiles at RIMPAC;

  • Captain Hay became the first female to lead a Task Force in the 49-year history of RIMPAC;

  • Hobart and Sirius conducted a passage exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in the South China Sea; and

  • Hobart and Sirius participated in the 25th iteration of Exercise SINGAROO with the Republic of Singapore Navy.

Because of the global pandemic, the ships conducted only essential logistics visits outside of Australia, resupplying and refuelling in accordance with strict COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Hobart’s Maritime Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Commander Andrew Petrie, said extensive planning was conducted before and during the deployment to ensure the safety of all Sailors and Officers aboard.

“The COVID-19 context brings added challenges to maintaining warfighting capability at every step.  It’s taken creativity and attention to detail, but the Hobart team has excelled in meeting those challenges,” Lieutenant Commander Petrie said.

Able Seaman Communications Sailor Ana Lavulo said the 117 days at sea was a personal achievement but she was happy to be home. 

“Not many people in modern times can say they have done such a unique deployment, and while at times it seemed long and was challenging, I am proud to have served.

“Now, I can’t wait to be back at home with family and friends,” Able Seaman Lavulo said.