Navy has been in the thick of Australia’s commitment to international proliferation security initiatives, helping host Exercise PACIFIC PROTECTOR 17 in Cairns.
It was an early start for the officers and crew of HMAS Toowoomba as they made preparations to come alongside HMAS Cairns to provide support to the counter-arms proliferation activity which is part of efforts since 2003 to build capacity through a global effort to counter illicit trade in technology for weapons of mass destruction.
Approximately 150 delegates from 21 different countries looked on from Toowoomba’s flight deck as demonstrations kicked off with a P-3C flyby, courtesy of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force simulating the search for, and tracking of a suspect vessel.
This activity was closely followed by boarding demonstrations on the Queensland Police Vessel Perry Irwin by boarding parties from Toowoomba, and theCoast Guards of both the Republic of Korea and United States.
The event highlighted the commitment and cooperation amongst participating nations with respect to preventing the illicit trade in weapons of mass destruction technology, their delivery systems and related materials.
Lieutenant Aaron Guest, Toowoomba’s Gunnery Officer, said it was important for the Australian Navy to both share expertise and learn form other participant nations.
“The live exercise was a huge success and further enhanced Navy’s reputation for professionalism, capacity and preparedness on a global scale,” he said.
For some in Toowoomba this was their first experience of working in support of proliferation security initiative. For others, such as Commanding Officer Commander Stuart Watters, this was the latest in a long exposure.
“My first exercise was held off Mackay in 2003 when I was a young warfare officer in HMAS Melbourne,” he said.
“Surveillance was provided by French maritime patrol aircraft, with Melbourne providing close cover and a Japanese Coast Guard ship conducting a boarding on a merchant vessel.
“Fourteen years on it is promising to see that the international cooperation has grown, and it shows the demonstrated ability for professional militaries, coast guards and other agencies to work together at sea in support of a mutually beneficial objective in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
“Toowoomba’s presence was a tangible sign of Australia’s commitment to regional engagement in pursuit of this goal.”