2019 kicked off on a positive note with HMAS Ballarat interdicting 3.1 tonnes of hashish in the Middle East, followed by highly successful participation as part of the multi-national Intrepid Sentinel maritime warfare and anti-submarine warfare exercise.
Navy’s Patrol Boats remained stalwart over the Christmas period, patrolling Australia’s northern maritime borders, and HMAS Huon returned home in mid-January following a four-month north-east Asian deployment.
Most Fleet units are now diligently working to ensure ships, systems and personnel are ready for the busy program of deployments, exercises and activities that lie ahead in 2019. With the support of Sea Training Group, unit readiness evaluations and training are being conducted to ensure the Fleet is prepared for the full spectrum of maritime operations and activities that lay before it.
"The next few weeks are a busy time for us, but the reward is the positive outcomes we achieve in platform and crew performance," Commander David Murphy, Fleet Executive Officer said.
2019 will also see the launch of the third and final Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyer, the future HMAS Sydney and further major project milestones for the Arafura Class OPVs, Hunter Class frigates and Attack Class submarine projects representing almost $90 billion worth of naval modernisation and expansion as part of the government's $200 billion, 20-year defence modernisation and capability expansion program announced in the 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP).
DWP and its focus on supporting industry through the sovereign industry capability and naval shipbuilding plans sought to respond to increased regional tensions and forge a path forward, following nearly two decades of 'valleys of death', cost and delivery overruns and shrinking defence budgets.
Industry is playing a central role in delivering these future capabilities, with the growing momentum reinforced by comments made by Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead during a conversation with Defence Connect.
"The announcements made in the last week really are the culmination of many years of hard work on the OPV, future submarines and future frigate programs, and it is great to see all the infrastructure breaking ground ahead of the building process," RADM Mead told Defence Connect.
As units depart from Garden Island to conduct exercises and operations around the world, maintenance will remain a focus for those who remain ashore, with several key projects on the schedule, including the refit of HMAS Sirius.
Like the Fleet Units at sea, the support force at Garden Island is also looking at a busy year ahead, providing a range of services from training through to the remediation and replenishment of stores and equipment.
Navy's increased capability and platform readiness is supported by uniformed personnel, Defence civilians and contractors working at Fleet Headquarters, Sea Training Group and in other support organisations based at Fleet Base East will continue working diligently to ensure the Fleet meets all the milestones set for it in 2019.
The growing importance of Australian SMEs throughout the supply chain also plays a critical role in supporting the Navy's mission of being "Battle Ready and Deployed", and RADM Mead identified that both Navy and Defence had made great strides in supporting Australian SMEs become integrated within large Defence projects, particularly major naval projects like SEA 1000 and SEA 5000.
"What I have noticed with the businesses and the companies that succeed is that they keep the lines of communication open and they're willing to take criticism from us when it is warranted. Navy has to be open to the model too, what we expect of industry we must model ourselves," RADM Mead told Defence Connect.