Two weeks into a 12 month deployment, ESPS Cantabria and her embarked 12 person RAN DET have been busy navigating their way through the Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal and Red Sea en route to Australia.
The principle objectives of Cantabria’s year long deployment to Australia is to provide afloat support to RAN vessels and opportunities for individual training, including familiarization of RAN personnel on some of the common systems which will be fitted to the RAN’s new LHD and AWD platforms.
Since departing La Graña, Naval Station in Ferrol, Spain on the 3rd of January, Cantabria and her Australian team members have participated in Op ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR, the NATO led effort to detect and deter terrorist activity in the Mediterranean Sea in order to prevent the smuggling of WOMD and conduct of illegal maritime activities.
Since entering the Mediterranean Sea via the Straits of Gibraltar, Cantabria’s ship´s company has been at a higher state of alert. The transit has allowed RAN DET members many opportunities to become familiar with the ship and her systems through the conduct of Anti Air and Force Protection Exercises.
In order to maximize learning opportunities members of the RAN DET have been integrated into the ship’s company. RAN personnel are filling critical positions within the ship and have been assigned action station and defense watch positions. Throughout the transit RAN DET personnel have been actively participating in all facets of daily seagoing life including the conduct of various training activities and exercises including Damage Control and Man Overboard (Hombre en el Agua).
Marine Engineer, LEUT Jayson McCarthy (IPMS AWD project) has been assigned to monitor the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) in order to gain a thorough understanding of the system and to inform command on the state of propulsion plant and other Ship´s Systems during action stations. IPMS will the primary control and monitoring system for the RAN’s new AWDs and LHDs and will become an integral system within the RAN’s new capabilities.
LEUT McCarthy has also took an opportunity to receive familiarization on operation and deadly effectiveness of Cantabria’s small arms capability, namely the MG42 machine gun, which he was given an opportunity to fire (under supervision), successfully destroying a hostile 44 gallon drum 150 yards from the ship, not responding to hails.
Whilst on watch, MWO’s SBLT Kent McKeon and SBLT Samuel Curtis have performed the duties as the OOW including conning the ship and collecting information on maritime traffic patterns through the conduct of hails of numerous vessels plying the Mediterranean.
SBLT Curtis say’s he has gained a better appreciation the aim of Cantabria’s mission “I am really thrilled to participate in NATO Op ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR as a member of Cantabria’s crew, as it is vitally important to keep the sea lines of communication open and free from harassment of terrorism and piracy.”
CO Cantabria, CMDR Jose Luis Nieto, has been very pleased with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the members of the RAN DET. He is also impressed with the efforts of the RAN personnel’s efforts to integrate with Ship´s Company and commented “the quick and fast integration of the RAN DET is a vivid example of the high standards of competence and dedication to the service of its members”.
Cantabria will continue to provide assistance in OP ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR until reaching the mouth of the Suez Canal which will open a new chapter in their journey to Australia. After negotiating the Suez Canal, it is planned that Cantabria will rendezvous with coalition units in the Gulf of Aden for conduct of Replenishments at Sea. Whilst in the area, they will provide support if to OP Atalanta with the main objective being detection, prevention and the repression of acts of piracy.
For members of Cantabria’s combined crew, the threat of piracy is very real. Indeed, Cantabria’s entry into the Area of operations coincides with the one year anniversary of an attack on her sister ship, ESPS Patiño, on 12th January 2012 when a fast attack craft carrying six Somali pirates mistook the Patiño for a merchant tanker and tried to board her. Needless to say it was the pirates who were the ones taken by surprise!!
Naval Today Staff, January 22, 2013; Image: Australian Navy