Rendering sea lanes safe - from the air

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Thomas Craig (author), POEW Ben White (photographer), LSA Richard Close (photographer), LSA Corey Wright (photographer), ABCD Michael McGuinness (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

A member of Newcastle's clearance diving team is winched back onboard Newcastle's S70B-2 Seahawk helicopter. (photo: POEW Ben White)
A member of Newcastle's clearance diving team is winched back onboard Newcastle's S70B-2 Seahawk helicopter.

HMAS Newcastle has conducted an Airborne Mine Disposal (AMD) training exercise while patrolling in the Gulf of Aden in support of Operation SLIPPER.

Leading Seaman Aircrew Richard Close, who controls the aviation aspects of the training from onboard the helicopter said AMD is a method of destroying a mine by inserting Navy Clearance Divers from a helicopter to neutralise an anti-ship mine with explosives.

“We fly three divers out to a suspected anti-ship mine in ‘Gremlin’, Newcastle’s embarked Seahawk S70B-2 helicopter,” he said.

“As we close into the vicinity of the anti-ship mine, two of the divers will jump into the water from a height of approximately six metres while the helicopter is still moving towards the target.”

Able Seaman Clearance Diver Marco Valensise is one of the two divers who deployed from the aircraft.

“The whole evolution was a great opportunity to do something a little out of the ordinary and practice something we haven’t done since our initial training course.”

Petty Office Clearance Diver Brenton Walters, who remained in the aircraft to control the diving aspect of the evolution, said the ship’s overboard training dummy ‘Oscar’ was ‘recruited’ to simulate the mine and he offered no complaints even after being strapped with explosives.

“One diver has to light the fuse on the explosives before returning to the aircraft.

“We lowered the winch to the waterline so if there’s a problem, the diver can at least get in the harness and be winched to safety.

However, as this was a training exercise there was no danger of anything exploding.”

Newcastle is in the Middle East Area of Operations as part of Operation SLIPPER - the Australian Defence Force contribution to the international campaign to counter piracy, smuggling and terrorism in the region. Her deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.

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