Spanish Navy’s F-105 frigate ESPS Cristóbal Colón is on her way home after she spent the last four months stationed in Australia helping Royal Australian Navy sailors get acquainted with the Aegis combat system.
During her time embedded with the Royal Australian Navy fleet she welcomed more than 200 Australian sailors who will later form the ship’s company of the Aegis-equipped destroyer Hobart due to join the Australian fleet in 2017.
Cristóbal Colón, a sister ship to Australia’s three new Spanish-designed Hobart class guided missile destroyers, operates the state-of-the-art Aegis combat system as well as other sophisticated life support systems to be used in the Australian destroyers.
Cristóbal Colón’s liaison officer Lieutenant Christopher Thornton said the ship had provided for 2,500 individual training days at sea.
“Hobart sailors have been living aboard, working side by side with their Spanish counterparts and taking an active role in operating the ship,” he said.
As part of the sea familiarisation, officers and sailors from all ship departments from chefs to warfare officers have been completing familiarisation booklets that will add value to more structured classroom and simulator training.
“What we normally do is we provide training first and contextualise it afterwards, but with Cristóbal Colón we’re able to contextualise first and provide training afterwards,” Lieutenant Thornton said.
“In the case for combat system operators, 80 per cent of the combat system will be the same as in Hobart, so when the operators step on board they will be familiar with the consoles, and they will know what they’re looking at even if they haven’t done any courses yet.
The sea familiarisation hasn’t just been a benefit to Hobart’s ship’s company, with other Royal Australian Navy units and Cristóbal Colón herself capitalising on four months of combined training.
“An example of this is the 808 Squadron’s MRH90 helicopter night flying, which helped the aircrew gain night vision goggle certification but it also helped the ship gain valuable skills working with diverse elements of a foreign navy such as ourselves,” Lieutenant Thornton said.