During recent operations with Commander Task Force 151, HMAS Newcastle planned and conducted Focused Operation SOUTHERN LOOK, an international maritime engagement operation in the Gulf of Aden.
The aim of the Focused Operation was to collect information used by the Combined Maritime Forces to assess the likelihood of piracy and other illegal activity in the region.
Focused Operation SOUTHERN LOOK was conducted between 18-25 August off the southern coast of Yemen, in the approaches between the ports of Al Mukalla and Ash Shi’hr. The area of operation covered 349 square kilometres of coast line and extended 30 nautical miles to sea.
During the operation, Newcastle took charge as the On Scene Commander of the international warships and military aircraft involved in the focused operation.
Newcastle operated with the Turkish Frigate TCG Goksu, to exchange information on vessels approaching and departing Yemen’s major ports, allowing Newcastle and Goksu to conduct maritime engagement activities.
“Much of the counter piracy effort in the Gulf of Aden relies on being able to differentiate between mariners doing their normal trade and those people conducting illegal activities,” said Principle Warfare Officer Lieutenant Phil Garrett.
“Our mission is all about establishing what is normal around here and what is not,” he added.
During Focused Operation SOUTHERN LOOK, Newcastle conducted 16 boarding activities to build rapport with local mariners and seek information on what they may have seen in the area.
Lieutenant Dave Osborne, one of Newcastle’s Boarding Officers, led the Boarding Party throughout the operation.
“In setting up for friendly interactions, we use Maritime Engagement Products; bottled water and small packaged food items such as muesli bars or sliced fruit cake,” Lieutenant Osborne said.
With good relations established between Newcastle’s boarding party and the Yemeni fishing boats, the locals called upon the Australians to render assistance to an injured fisherman.
Able Seaman Dale Hazeltine, the Boarding Party’s Medic assisted the fisherman by attending to lacerations on his foot.
“It was a simple thing to do, however without intervention the injury could have become infected, so it was good that we were able to provide help,” Able Seaman Hazeltine said.
“News gets around to other fishing boats and helps promote our Navy as being the good guys, and that’s a rewarding experience,” he added.
During the focused operation, Newcastle also conducted three replenishment at sea (RAS) activities with coalition ships, from the United Kingdom (RFA Fort Victoria) and United States (USNS Patuxant), which included Newcastle’s first helicopter vertical replenishment.
In completing Focused Operation SOUTHERN LOOK, Newcastle steamed over 1520 nautical miles and conducted 21 sorties with her Seahawk helicopter ‘Gremlin’ flying over 46 hours.
Newcastle is in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) assigned to Operation SLIPPER - the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the international campaign against piracy, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement. Her deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20131334.