The Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE 19) Joint Task Force has returned to Australia following a three-month regional engagement mission to south and south-east Asia.
The flagship HMAS Canberra will anchor off Darwin tomorrow, having visited seven nations since March 2019 during the third IPE iteration since its inception in 2017.
Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, said this third iteration of IPE was one of the most ambitious regional engagement activities undertaken by the Australian Defence Force.
"With four ships and various aircraft; more than 1,200 personnel from across the ADF, partner nations and defence industry; this was a landmark activity for our modern joint force," AIRMSHL Hupfeld explained.
Indo-Pacific Endeavour is a key component of the government's 'Pacific step-up' doctrine, which focuses on two interconnected areas, namely:
- Enhanced regional economic collaboration and integration through investment in key infrastructure and economic drivers, like communications networks; and
- Regional strategic partnerships and alliances to promote transparent dialogue and amicable strategic relations.
The Pacific step-up strategy incorporates a number of different focuses, ranging from economic and infrastructure development, combined with a renewed Australian strategic and defence commitment to the broader Pacific region, which were outlined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as part of the 2018 APEC leadership conference in Port Moresby.
As part of Australia stepping up its commitment and presence in the Pacific, the government announced a $2 billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, which was created with the view of supporting the economic and infrastructure development of key partners in the Pacific region in particular.
"IPE 19 was a sophisticated demonstration of joint force integration, combined interoperability with partner forces and military diplomacy," AIRMSHL Hupfeld added.
Australia will also provide training and infrastructure upgrades to support the domestic security and defence capabilities of regional partners like Vanuatu, with the Prime Minister outlining an expansion of the island nation’s police force and the appointment of a new Australian defence adviser in Vanuatu. Another example is the recent signing of a major joint initiative between the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea on the construction of the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island.
AIRMSHL Hupfeld said the annual joint task force activity would continue to deepen relations with our neighbours, who have enthusiastically welcomed and hosted Australian forces.
"The Indo-Pacific is where we live and the ADF will continue to have a prominent and productive role in shaping regional security," he said.
During IPE 19, HMAS Canberra was joined by HMA Ships Success, Newcastle and Parramatta, as well as embarked MH-60R maritime combat helicopters and MRH-90 maritime support helicopters.
A Royal Australian Air Force P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft also participated in several regional visits. The Australian Army’s 2nd and 3rd Battalions, the Royal Australian Regiment, the Australian Army Band, RAAF personnel and Australian Public Servants also formed part of the Joint Task Force.
IPE 19 visited Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia. HMAS Canberra will return to Townsville in the coming week.