Warships gather for major Australian drill Ocean Explorer

Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Adelaide, alongside the Port of Fremantle with Armada Espanola (ESPS) Cristobal Colon berthed behind it, prior to the commencement of Exercise Ocean Explorer 17. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

Warships from New Zealand, Spain and Italy will all be joining Royal Australian Navy ships for one of Australia’s largest maritime warfare exercises.

More than 17 ships and aircraft are gathering on the Western Australian coast for the inaugural exercise Ocean Explorer.

The Spanish Armada’s ESPS Cristobal Colon, as well as New Zealand’s HMNZ Ships Te Kaha and Endeavour and, for a brief period, Italian frigate ITS Caribiniere will integrate into the Australian scenarios.

Exercise director Captain Jim Hutton said the activity is aimed to train ships to work together in a series of complex and dynamic warfare scenarios.

“With the recent acquisition of much larger ships, we are transitioning from a fleet optimised for single-ship operations to a new era of joint task group level expeditionary warfare,” he said.

“The main aim of the exercise is to develop our task group capability, to operate a number of ships under one commander and focus primarily on sea control operations.

“This can include the full spectrum of maritime security operations; from diplomacy and international engagement at one end, through to humanitarian and disaster relief, constabulary and peacekeeping operations, and at the upper end of the spectrum, high end war fighting.”

The Royal Australian Air Force will also participate in scenarios, as will defence elements based on Australia’s east coast.

Units ashore in a number of locations will integrate into the exercise to add complexity and reality.

A two week sea phase will incorporate anti-submarine and air defence exercises.

Between February 27 and March 10, military activities will be conducted at sea and in coastal areas north of Perth in the vicinity of Lancelin, Geraldton and as far south as Geographe Bay.

The exercise includes the first visit to Western Australia by the amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide which will be berthed at Fremantle Port until February 27 but will not be open to the public.

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