The final week of Exercise KAKADU 2014 has commenced with ‘free-play’ exercises that provide participants with the opportunity to test their naval warfare capabilities, with the ships and aircraft divided into opposing fictional 'Blue' and 'Red' forces.
The ‘Blueland’ forces, lead by the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Sydney working together with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JS Hatakaze and the Philippine Navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz, commenced action with a patrol of hostile ‘Redland’ waters.
Early intelligence indicated the presence of a Redlander submarine, with a fast patrol surface vessel - in fact a large, red inflatable target known as a ‘killer tomato’ - located shortly thereafter.
One of Sydney’s Warfare Officers, Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Raymond, described the threat posed by the fictional patrol vessel.
“The patrol vessel was actively surveilling us, preventing us from reaching our next rendezvous.
“We assessed it as having been a direct threat through its anti-ship missiles, as well as by calling in strikes from the air.
“Under our rules of engagement, we decided to neutralise the threat,” Lieutenant Commander Raymond said.
At a distance of approximately four nautical miles, Sydney and Ramon Alcaraz engaged the target with their 76mm guns.
Sydney’s Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Jason Evans, was pleased with the results.
“Sydney is one of the Australian Navy’s primary surface combatants, and we need to continually train our systems and our people in readiness to defend national interests when called upon to do so.
“Today we proved the 76mm gun capability, with a volley of shots that would have likely neutralised a real world target,” Lieutenant Commander Evans said.
Sydney’s Commanding Officer (and Blue Force Commander), Commander Karl Brinckmann, welcomed the free-play exercises as an opportunity to test the participating ships and their crews.
“Programmed by the Exercise KAKADU Control staff ashore in Darwin, this week’s scenarios are unscripted from the ship’s perspective.
“The notice we get of a scenario reflects real world notice of action that we might get through intelligence and monitoring systems, including our embarked Seahawk S-70-B helicopter from 816 Squadron.
“In these exercises we have the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and skills we have long trained for.
“To paraphrase Sun Tzu ‘the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war,’” Commander Brinckmann said.
Once the gunfire exercise had concluded, Blueland forces continued to search for, localise and attempt to classify the Redland submarine, whilst maintaining vigilance for threats from air and sea.
Exercise KAKADU 2014 is Australia’s largest naval warfare exercise of 2014, with eight surface ships, 26 aircraft and 1,200 people from 15 countries participating from 25 August - 12 September 2014.