At anchor two kilometres off the coast of Bougainville sits HMAS Choules, the Royal Australian Navy’s Landing Ship Dock, a 180 metre long, 16,000 tonne vessel, currently providing significant life support to almost 450 Australian and international defence force personnel deployed on Operation RENDER SAFE 2014.
Sitting in the Captain’s chair is Commander Ashley Papp, who maintains responsibility for both the ship’s company and the embarked forces while onboard HMAS Choules.
Where the ship really comes into its own is the availability of the well dock, which is basically a floating dock designed specifically for amphibious operations.
The flexibility of HMAS Choules is one of her major assets, we are launching clearance divers and geo-spatial specialists through the side ramp and we are utilising the ship’s well dock to launch the larger vessels, which is a first for us.
From the ship’s flight deck an Australian Army MRH-90 helicopter provides transportation and logistic support to the teams on the ground, another example of the tri-service nature of this operation.
We are purpose-built and no other ship currently in the fleet can do what we do in that tri-service space, and we do it very well.
For the Commander of Joint Task Force 663, Captain Jay Bannister, Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 is not only providing assistance to the people of Bougainville but also an opportunity for the ADF to put its Amphibious Task Group (ATG) to the test in an operational environment.
This is a really good amphibious experience for HMAS Choules, for my staff and great exposure for other Air Force and Army elements in the Joint Task Force as well.
This is what amphibious operations are about; it’s tough getting from the ship onto the beach and into operations and then back again. It takes a lot of detailed planning and we are all learning a lot from this.
Operation RENDER SAFE is Australia’s enduring commitment to the removal of Explosive Remnants of War which continue to pose a potential danger to communities across the South West Pacific.
The focus of Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 is in the Torokina district of Bougainville where grounds, villages and community gardens remain contaminated by unexploded ordnance.
Torokina was the site of fighting between Japanese and Allied forces, and was an air base for the Allies during the Second World War.
Press release, Image: Australian Navy