Royal Australian Navy minehunters, HMA Ships Diamantina and Gascoyne successfully completed a complex dual refuel and stores replenishment with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force for the first time.
The evolution involved the two Huon Class minehunters ‘rafting’ up to the anchored Mine Sweep Tender and taking on a combined 32,000 litres of fuel and three days worth of food stores each.
Completed during Exercise Hyuga Nada – a mine countermeasures exercise off the coast of Miyazaki, Japan – the raft exercise was the culmination of more than 12 months of planning.
Commander Task Group, Commander Brett Dawe, said it was a very significant achievement in deepening the Royal Australian Navy’s connection with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and for the minehunter capability.
"Operationally this was a momentous achievement for navy to improve our interoperability with JMSDF. This raft exercise was conducted by a relatively small task group and required coordination of people, parts and relationships," CMDR Dawe explained.
"The performance of all three teams was flawless in ensuring success and safety."
The refuelling concept was born during the inaugural Exercise Hyuga Nada, when participating ships Gascoyne and Huon rafted to JS Bungo in 2018. A raft replenishment was then conducted between Diamantina and HMAS Leeuwin earlier this year.
The conditions were challenging for this evolution, due to the different sizes and functionalities of the platforms and the unfavourable swell and weather.
Commanding Officer of Diamantina, Lieutenant Commander Darren McDevitt, said this vital re-supply was important for the deployment and planning that occurred with the JMSDF and across engineering, logistics, policy, seamanship and operations disciplines.
"After a significant amount of engagement with our Japanese partners, and many technical drawings later, the re-fuel pumping was understood – and critically – a hose connection was manufactured and approved for use," LCDR McDevitt said.
"The replenishment had a critical function as there were very few opportunities for logistical re-supply in the exercise area to continue the deployment."
Commanding Officer of Gascoyne, Lieutenant Commander Sean Aitken, said this milestone was satisfying for Gascoyne, despite the conditions.
"Rafting to a foreign warship while at anchor, in very challenging conditions, and then passing fuel, is not something that MHCs (minehunter coastals) practice often," LCDR Aitken added.
"There are several members of Gascoyne that were onboard last year for the first iteration with JS Bungo, including Gascoyne’s Ship’s Technical Officer, Chief Petty Officer Dave Walker, whose planning and technical expertise was instrumental to the success."
HMA Ships Gascoyne and Diamantina are deployed as part of the Maritime East Asia Deployment and are scheduled to return to Australia in December this year.