- Editorial Staff
- RAN operations, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Darwin, HMAS Ballarat II, HMAS Stuart III
- December 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Stuart’s recent operational deployment was the fourth to the MEAO for the ship since commissioning, and the twenty-fifth rotation for an RAN Unit since September 2001. Operation Slipper is the contribution of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to the international campaign against terrorism, smuggling and piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and the enhancement of regional maritime security and engagement. Whilst deployed, Stuart was a component of the combined Maritime Force (CMF).
During the six months deployed, Stuart conducted over 300 queries of vessels and completed 30 boardings using Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs). She also effected thirteen replenishments at sea for both fuel and vitals, completed one search and rescue operation and also rendered assistance to several vessels that required medical or engineering assistance. The ship steamed close to 70,000 kilometres (37,541 nautical miles), and visited ports in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India, and Singapore, the last two ports being visited on the return journey once Stuart had departed the MEAO. Stuart’s helicopter flew over 330 hours across 113 sorties.
The time in the MEAO is predominantly spent conducting independent patrols of 20-30 days duration. Opportunities do exist, both organised via Operation Control (OPCON) or on an ad hoc basis, to conduct training evolutions with the varying ships of different nations that operate within this busy waterway. Whilst deployed, Stuart exercised in company with units from the navies of the United States of America, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India.
In terms of tasking whilst deployed, the Australian unit will spend the majority of its time under the OPCON of Commander Task Force (CTF) 150 (Maritime security and Counter Terrorism operations) although at times the ship may be under the OPCON of CTF 151 (Counter Piracy) or CTF 152 (Arabian Gulf Security Cooperation). Tasking will be dependent upon the OPCON.
Worthy of specific mention was Stuart’s successful interdiction of a Yemeni-flagged dhow and the subsequent rescue of three crew members who were being held hostage by suspected pirates off the Horn of Africa, and the disruption of operations of a Suspected Pirate Mother ship through the deliberate engagement of a skiff being towed by the ship in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden utilising the 12.7 mm Mini-Typhoon. The success of these critical and demanding situations, and ultimately the mission overall, was due to the exceptional performance level of the ship’s company throughout a demanding six months.
This success is clearly demonstrated by all of then ship’s company commenting that they were well prepared for the Operation Slipper deployment at the culmination of the Mission Readiness Evaluation. Whilst Stuart still required training and evaluation on route to Fleet Base West, the first leg of the deployment, the fact that the ship was sailing for the MEAO just over 5 months since the ship’s company took possession of the platform speaks volumes of the professionalism and dedication of the 190 men and women that formed the ship’s company.
Working within operational constraints we sincerely thank Commander Sonter for his frank responses which help to provide a better understanding of the present generation of men and women serving with distinction in our Fleet. We are also grateful for learning more of the Sea Swap concept which appears a valued tool in making the best use of resources. Ed.