Navy personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States have teamed up to identify explosive underwater threats off the coast of Tuvalu.
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The Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) have combined for Operation Render Safe 2022, identifying 22 WWII-era aerial bombs for removal from Tuvalu waters.
In response to a request from the government of Tuvalu, the taskforce deployed aboard RNZN vessel Manawanui to search for reported explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Funafuti Lagoon and Nanumea.
The RNZN military hydrographers surveyed areas of interest, with the dive team investigating the sea floor.
No ordnance was found in the Funafuti area, however, ERWs were discovered in Nanumea.
In total, the multinational contingent surveyed more than 2.5 square kilometres of seabed over 47 hours of dive time, identifying 22 AN-M43 500-pound aerial bombs and four .50 calibre small arms dumps in depths of 10-18 metres.
The commander of ADF operations in the South West Pacific, Major General Scott Winter, noted the importance of removing such threats to assure the safety of Pacific partners.
“This has been a valuable opportunity to work together with Tuvaluan authorities and our partners from New Zealand, the United States and Canada, and for our crews to share knowledge whilst working in support of the Pacific family,” MAJGEN Winter said.
“The team identified a significant number of ERW during the operation. This will enable us to conduct further planning in preparation for the safe disposal of these remnants, and also minimises the risk to personnel and vessels travelling within Tuvalu waters.”
Operation Render Safe provided the commanding officer of Manawanui, Commander John McQueen, and his crew with the first opportunity to cooperate with an embarked international force.
“Operation Render Safe has been a successful event for us, as we proved capability, enhanced our ability to operate with our multinational partners, and were able to make a real difference to our Pacific neighbours,” Commander McQueen said.
The disposal of ERW identified during reconnaissance activities in Tuvalu is slated for 2023.