Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds has welcomed the return of HMAS Hobart following a three-month deployment in south-east Asia and the Pacific.
All Navy Task Group ships have officially returned home following the largest deployment of 2020, with HMAS Hobart arriving in Sydney after three months of engagement alongside HMA Ships Canberra, Stuart, Arunta and Sirius.
The ships engaged in exercises across south-east Asia and the Pacific with 11 regional partners, including Brunei, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Republic of Singapore, and the US.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds welcomed their arrival, adding that the Royal Australian Navy had further strengthened Australia’s relationships with regional counterparts.
“The Australian Defence Force conducts regular military-to-military engagements throughout the Indo-Pacific, to demonstrate that our commitment to our regional partners remains solid and our desire for a stable and secure region is a priority,” Minister Reynolds said.
“I commend the more than 700 ADF personnel who spent the last three months working alongside our partners, demonstrating our capability and showing themselves to be professional and resilient.
“I also thank their families, because without their support, the deployment of our ADF personnel would not be possible.”
Minister Reynolds continued, “This regional deployment demonstrates how Defence has adapted to the COVID-19 crisis, quickly and effectively adopting COVID-safe practices.”
Key milestones achieved by the Task Group include:
- Advanced air-sea integration drills with the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy in waters off Guam;
- HMAS Canberra’s participation in the successful search and rescue of three sailors in the Federated States of Micronesia;
- Participation in the world’s largest maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific in Hawaii;
- HMA Ships Hobart, Stuart and Arunta’s successful completion of a live missile firings during RIMPAC;
- Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters successfully fired Hellfire missiles during RIMPAC; and
- Commander of the Task Group, Captain Phillipa Hay, CSC, became the first female to lead an exercise Task Force in the 49-year history of RIMPAC.
CAPT Hay said it had been an honour to lead the Task Group, adding that she was proud of the efforts of the RAN’s officers and sailors.
“The Regional Presence Deployment 2020 was conducted during a global pandemic which presented new challenges to how we conduct military operations,” CAPT Hay said.
“The mission has also been enormously successful, achieved through hard work and true-blue Australian strength of character.
“We have demonstrated Australia’s ongoing commitment to the region, and further developed our interoperability and cohesiveness with partner nations, maintaining a secure, stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific.”
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ships conducted fewer logistics visits outside of Australia, and resupplied and refuelled in accordance with strict protocols to curb the spread of the coronavirus.