Navy Divers prove deployable recovery and salvage capability

Published on CPOCD Michael Barnes (author)

Location(s): Cairns, QLD

Topic(s): Australian Clearance Diving Team FOUR

Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Andrew Allen wears an underwater battle damage repair dive suit during a unit readiness evaluation in Cairns. (photo: )
Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Andrew Allen wears an underwater battle damage repair dive suit during a unit readiness evaluation in Cairns.

Sea Training Staff from the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group have completed the first deployed assessment of the Royal Australian Navy’s Under Water Damage Repair Capability in Cairns.  

Ten Clearance Divers from Australian Clearance Diving Team FOUR (AUSCDT FOUR) deployed from Western Australia to join seven Reserve Divers from Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne and the Clearance Diving element from HMAS Cairns, to successfully execute the location and recovery of a fictitious helicopter, its crew and operationally sensitive payload.

While not on the scale of the Costa Concordia recovery, the assessment successfully proved the effectiveness of a deployable underwater maintenance and salvage capability for the Australian Defence Force. Under structural change recommendations arising from Project NEPTUNE, the Clearance Diving Branch has been directed to establish and maintain a deployable Under Water Damage Repair capability, drawing from the broader Royal Australian Navy diving community when required.

The work-up and Unit Readiness Evaluation provided a complex scenario designed to stress the operational capability of the individual operators while effectively assessing the remote command and control capability of the Clearance Diving Team structure.

Responding to a lost helicopter, with missing crew and highly sensitive experimental equipment onboard, last known to be in the vicinity of Cairns, elements from around Australia joined to execute what divers are employed to do; successfully achieve a desired effect underwater, regardless of task.   

When called upon in the past to provide a specialist underwater search and salvage capability, including The 1975 Tasman Bridge collapse in Tasmania, the loss of the RAAF 707 off Sale in 1991 and the grounding of HMS Nottingham in 2002, RAN divers had always proven successful, having provided exceptional results. And, the current generation of RAN divers continue to prove the utility of the ADF’s premier underwater technicians. 

“The work up and assessment proved that the RAN has the skills and expertise to apply to a variety of complex and challenging scenarios,” commented CMDR Doug Griffiths upon completion of the exercise scenario. 

“The short notice activation of Clearance Divers and Reserve Divers from across Australia proved the success of the Underwater Damage Repair Structure and demonstrated the professionalism that the RAN Clearance Diving branch is renowned for across the globe.”