While the focus of Exercise KAKADU is on the surface ships from Australia, Japan, Pakistan and the Philippines, aircraft from Australia, Japan and New Zealand have played an equally important role in the warfare exercises being conducted off Darwin.
Fast jets were regularly seen by the naval forces during the exercises, but far above them were several variants of the P3C Orion, including AP-3C operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), P-3C operated by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and the P-3K operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).
During the Exercise, the Orion aircraft performed maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare roles for the fictional ‘Blueland’ and ‘Redland’ forces, with a Blueland AP-3C successfully tracking and neutralising one of the Redland ships, HMAS Arunta.
Commander of the RAAF contribution, Squadron Leader Richard Charles welcomed his counterparts from the JMSDF, Commander Takafumi Yamamoto, and the RNZAF, Squadron Leader Marcus Hogan.
“While the three aircraft are very similar airframe wise, they have distinct mission systems which provide differing levels of capability. “The cooperation and engagement across aircrew, maintenance and the support staff has been outstanding.
“By working alongside each other we have further developed interoperability in the conduct of anti-submarine warfare and multi-lateral maritime operations.
“The interaction has been fantastic and each nation has taken the opportunity to fly with the other during the exercise,” Squadron Leader Charles said.
The New Zealand P-3K aircraft have received substantial upgrades in their capabilities in recent years, with all new mission systems and ‘all glass’ flight controls.
“We regularly conduct the patrol and surveillance component of our capability, but it is only during exercises like KAKADU that we get the opportunity to put into practice many of the combat capabilities of the plane.
“We hope to expand mutual understanding by participating in Exercise KAKADU,” Squadron Leader Hogan said.
The Japanese aircraft normally operate much closer to home in the busy North Asian waters around Japan.
“We have been very happy to work with our Australian and New Zealand colleagues during Exercise KAKADU.
“There are many similarities in the work we conduct, and we can share knowledge through opportunities like these,” Commander Yamamoto said.
Exercise KAKADU is Australia’s largest naval exercise of 2014, with the participation of eight warships, 26 aircraft and more than 1,200 personnel.