HMAS Newcastle is heading home to Sydney after a highly successful deployment to the Middle East Region, where she seized the second-biggest illegal drug haul in Combined Maritime Forces history.
The Royal Australian Navy guided missile frigate was deployed as part of Operation MANITOU, Australia’s contribution to the US-led multi-national Combined Maritime Forces where she made a significant impact in the fight against drug trafficking and enhanced maritime security in the region.
Units assigned to Forces undertake patrols to combat piracy, drug trafficking and other illicit activities to deliver a maritime security presence in the region where the Australian ship’s four-and-a-half months on-station resulted in the seizure and disposal of 1,525kg of narcotics, with a conservative street-value of more than $1.222 billion Australian.
Newcastle’s Commanding Officer, Commander Dominic MacNamara, said the results were made possible through the coordination of a well-trained ship’s company operating within a seamless multi-national command environment.
“The ship’s company has remained focused from beginning to end, their lives totally immersed in ensuring Newcastle remained a highly capable warship able to respond immediately to a wide range of tasks,” he said.
“Results such as this don’t happen in isolation.
"We must receive direction from our multi-national headquarters and work closely with our ships and aircraft from many nations.
“The results clearly show that this is an effective force that provides a tangible security effect in the region.”
Commander MacNamara said a large part of the credit for Newcastle’s record goes to families and friends at home.
“Their support has allowed us to focus on our job and deliver these outstanding results,” he said.
“Their contribution is every bit as meaningful as that of the ship’s company themselves.”
During her deployment Newcastle’s steamed more than 33,500 nautical miles while on patrol, her embarked S-70B Seahawk helicopter flew 250 hours and the galley served up more than 79,200 meals to keep the ship operating 24 hours per day.
Two members of ship's company became fathers during the deployment – both of whom are waiting for their first opportunity to meet their new children on return to Garden Island, Sydney.
Major General Shane Caughey, Acting Chief of Joint Operations, said Newcastle’s assignment to Operation MANITOU continued Australia’s contribution to security within the Middle East region maritime environment, a contribution spanning more than 25 years.
“The Australian Defence Force provides a valuable contribution to the collective of like-minded international military forces operating in the region, whose commitment aligns with Australia’s International Law of the Sea obligations,” he said.
“The personnel on board Newcastle can be proud in their achievements for this 60th deployment of a Navy ship to the region since 1990.
“Australian ships have intercepted more than four tonnes of illegal narcotics since February 2014, which is impacting the ability of terrorist organisations to fund their activities.”
HMAS Newcastle departed her home port of Sydney on 1 April this year and replaced the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel HMAS Success as the Australian major fleet unit from 28 April.