As Australia’s largest naval warfare exercise for 2014, KAKADU is providing an important opportunity to hone and exchange knowledge for Australia and fourteen coalition nations working together on a variety of air defence, anti-submarine and surface warfare serials.
Five of the participating nations – Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan and the Philippines – have sent ships or aircraft (or both) to the exercise, whilst other participating nations have contributed officers who are providing specialised skills to the Commander Task Groups or participating as observers.
During the exercise, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney, is leading Task Group 628.1, known as ‘Blue Force,’, which also consists of the Japanese destroyer JS Hatakaze and the Philippine Navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz, in the wide range of warfare exercises.
Sydney’s Commanding Officer, Commander Karl Brinckmann, has welcomed some 12 coalition personnel from eight countries to his ship for KAKADU.
“When we have three warships from three different countries working together, it is like conducting an orchestra.
“Each ship has different strengths. Sydney, for example, is strong in air defence while Hatakaze is strong in surface warfare.
“As the air warfare commander, Sydney takes the lead in air defence scenarios, ensuring that all the ships in the Task Force work together fight and win at sea,” Commander Brinckmann said.
Each day there are personnel exchanges between the various ships via small boat or helicopter, providing further opportunities to share procedures, such as those for deck landing practices between nations.
Sydney’s Flight Commander, Lieutenant Ben Martin, described the deck landings as being invaluable preparation for helicopter operations that allow ship-to-ship logistics and support operations.
“Helicopters are capability multipliers for all navies, and when the aircraft can operate seamlessly between ships of different countries, that capability is further enhanced,” Lieutenant Martin said.
When a Philippine Navy AW109 helicopter practiced repeated deck landings at dusk, Sydney’s flight deck team noted important differences in take off procedures between the Australian and Philippine navies.
“Understanding these differences, perhaps learning about the reasons for them, is key to ensuring safe cross-decking operations,” Lieutenant Martin said.
Whilst Sydney normally sports a crew of around 180 officers and sailors, during KAKADU it will swell to almost 250, including the embarked flight crew, task group personnel and coalition observers.