Patrol boats join big warships for Talisman Sabre drill

Royal Australian Navy’s Armidale class patrol boats joined their much larger counterparts for the northern component of exercise Talisman Sabre proving they can play a role in complex war drills.

The Darwin-based HMAS Bathurst and Broome took on a superior force including guided missile frigates HMAS Melbourne and Ballarat and the biggest of them all, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John S. McCain.

Commanding officer Bathurst Lieutenant Commander David Shirvington said the patrol boats’ stealth and low signature meant they could pose as a menacing adversary to the larger ships.

“During our role playing as the enemy force, the destroyer group were tested by our speed and agility, replicating what could be a very real threat faced in an unconventional asymmetric attack,” he said.

Operations officer in Ballarat, Lieutenant Mitch Tavener said the patrol boats added another dimension to the warfare exercise.

“Their minimal radar cross-section made them at times difficult to track, their speed made them hard to defeat, and their intimate knowledge of the coastline and northern waters of Australia gave them a strength the larger ships didn’t have,” he said.

When they had enough of playing the bad guy, the patrol boats joined with John S. McCain and Ballarat for Task Group screening and a hunt for HMAS Melbourne.

The activity included a squadron of Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, once again split between friendly and enemy forces.

“The enemy’s mission was to locate and launch attacks on the ships which they did via their own sensors and cuing,” Lieutenant Tavener said.

“The friendly jets were assigned in a defensive counter air role to combat the enemies and they were controlled and vectored onto targets by our own ship’s sensors and information.

“Organic long range and early warning radars allowed us to posture for growing threats and having the friendly jets under our control meant we had a robust layered air defence.

“This means a much greater chance of survival for our ships,” he said.

More than 15 Royal Australian Navy ships and aircraft have participated in the exercise alongside United States Navy and Marine Corps counterparts.

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