HMAS Ballarat (Commanger Jonathan Earley) has been making waves in the South China Seas as part of the maritime component for the annual Five Power Defence Arrangement Exercise – Bersama Shield.
Exercise Bersama Shield 12 (Ex BS12) saw Ballarat join forces with Malaysian Frigate KD Lekiu and Singaporean Frigate RSS Supreme along with HMAS Collins (Commander Jason Cupples) and aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom from 23 April to 4 May 2012.
For Ballarat this was a particularly busy time with Sea Training Group also joining the ship for the duration of the exercise.
Warfare staff from Sea Training Group worked closely with ship’s staff before assessing the warfare team in specific warfare competencies for their upcoming North East Asian Deployment.
The exercise provided an excellent opportunity for this to occur, given the large and extensive number of assets provided by all nations including: Collins, a CB-90 Fast Attack Craft, AEWC, AP-3C, F50, S70B (Singaporean version), Super Lynx and a variety of fast jet aircraft including Hawks, F-15, F-16, F-18, Su30 and MiG 29 as well as two DA 20 Electronic Warfare Aircraft (similar the EWTS aircraft often seen in the EAXA and WAXA).
CMDR Earley said with such a variety of assets, the training was truly multi-threat.
“At any one time it was possible to have 46 aircraft on task providing early warning, undertaking combat air patrols, performing air raids against the force simulating either missile/FGA attacks,” he said.
“All this while at the same having a sub-surface attacks from Collins and small boat asymmetric attacks from the Royal Malaysian Navy’s 45kt CB-90 fast attack craft.”
He said ex-BS 12 was split into four distinct phases for the maritime force.
“The first involved an extensive series of briefs during the Harbour Phase to prepare all participants on the aims and objectives of the exercise.
“This was followed by the Force Integration Training (FIT) Phase, where the maritime component conducted a very busy serialised program to build competence, capability and confidence among the surface units.”
The three frigates formed a surface task group with CO Ballarat acting as Commander Task Group and, along with Collins, spent this phase exercising basic communications, ship handling, aviation and warfare.
The next phase of the exercise was the “WAREX”. This phase focused on the testing the ability of the maritime task group to operate together in a free play environment against unalerted attack windows during the day.
The seven-day exercise culminated in a two-day “LIVEX” in which the task group was required to safely escort a high value unit through the operational areas against an array of air, surface and sub-surface threats coming from anywhere at any time.
One of Ballarat’s JWAC Phase IV trainees, SBLT Scott Lytton, said this exercise was his highlight.
“The uncertainty of the threats and timings meant anything could happen and you had to be alert at all times. It was a great training experience, especially for the bridge team onboard,” SBLT Lytton said.
Adding to that sense of satisfaction was the relief to learn the Sea Training Group had assessed the Operations Team as “Unit Ready” in the required Warfare Competencies needed for the next stage of Ballarat’s North East Asian Deployment.
Naval Today Staff , May 17, 2012; Image: Australian Navy