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Navy, industry combine to enhance mine hunter capability

The Royal Australian Navy and defence industry have joined forces to help support HMAS Gascoyne after a recent deployment as part of a five-yearly refit, ensuring she remains ready to fight.

The Royal Australian Navy and defence industry have joined forces to help support HMAS Gascoyne after a recent deployment as part of a five-yearly refit, ensuring she remains ready to fight.

Gascoyne’s refit saw the vessel removed from the water in the Captain Cook Graving Dock at Garden Island where her propeller was removed and her hull repainted while all of her major systems also are being removed, refurbished and overhauled.

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The 52-metre long Huon Class minehunter coastal (MHC) is undergoing a refit in Sydney following her most recent overseas deployment.

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Sean Aitken, said the refit had left the ship looking almost brand new but would also improve how she sails.

"Cleaning the hull and replacement of Gascoyne’s anti-fouling fittings will have a significant impact on Gascoyne’s performance once back at sea. We found that during our last deployment with our sister ship HMAS Diamantina, we were roughly one knot slower and had a higher rate of fuel consumption. This refit will make us a faster and more efficient vessel," LCDR Aitken explained. 

The refit comes following busy previous 12 months with Gascoyne sailing more than 22,000 nautical miles in 2019 over two major deployments to the south-west Pacific and north-east Asia.

LCDR Aitken added, "We’ve also inspected the rudder and shaft, replaced or overhauled our cranes, fire pumps and replaced multiple valves throughout the ship."

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Commissioned in 2001, HMAS Gascoyne is homeported at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney, with sister ships DiamantinaHuon and Yarra.

Originally designed in Italy as the Gaeta Class for the Italian Navy, the RAN Huon Class has been modified to suit Australian conditions, including improved accommodation and mine hunting capabilities.

The Huon Class feature a unique hull design, outstanding shock resistance and an inherently low magnetic signature, allowing the ships to operate in hostile mine environments. Each single skin monocoque hull has been designed with no ribs, frames or stiffeners, avoiding local stress points that could separate under shock conditions.

For their mine countermeasure operations the ships are fitted with a Variable Depth Sonar capable of detection ranges in excess of 1,000 metres ahead of the ship. When a mine is detected in a water column or on the seabed, the ship will 'hover' about 200 metres from the contact.

A mine disposal vehicle or clearance divers will then be sent to investigate and neutralise the mine threat.

Each ship is fitted with a pair of electrically powered Bofors Underwater Systems Double Eagle mine disposal vehicles equipped with a searchlight, closed-circuit low light television camera and an on-board close range identification sonar.

Commands are relayed via a fibre optic link inside the vehicle's tether, which also relays sensor images for display on the ship's multifunction console in the operations room.

Each Double Eagle vehicle is fitted with either a disposal charge slung beneath or an explosive or mechanical cutter designed to sever the wire rope or chain holding moored mines.

Navy, industry combine to enhance mine hunter capability
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