Royal Australian Navy ships have arrived in Noumea, New Caledonia, to take part in the French-led disaster response exercise Croix du Sud.
Amphibious landing ship HMAS Choules and Coastal Mine Hunters HMAS Gascoyne and Yarra will join French and Royal New Zealand Navy ships for the exercise which is running until May 25.
Exercise Croix du Sud (Southern Cross) 18 is the largest humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) training exercise in the South Pacific and is led by the French Armed Forces of New Caledonia (FANC).
HMAS Choules will be the command ship in the exercise. Commanding officer, Commander Scott Houlihan said they are looking forward to the task. “We are embarking a French Maritime Component Commander (MCC) staff to coordinate the HADR effort,” CMDR Houlihan said. “We will be working alongside the other principle amphibious ships including French Ship D’Entrecasteau and Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ships Wellington and Canterbury.”
HMAS Choules will be embarking a landing force of up to 300 troops and vehicles, primarily from France (a company group) and personnel from Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Croix du Sud is designed to ensure all involved are prepared for major HADR operations. The scenario will call for military assistance including a non-combatant evacuation operation followed by stability and security operations.
“Australia is very experienced in supplying aid and disaster recovery forces in the region and assisting people in need is one of our most rewarding tasks,” he said, ”But Croix du Sud will tackle the more difficult areas of disaster response.’