11 April 2017 © David Eyre
Warships from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Italy, together with Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Navy, Italian Navy and US Navy aircraft took part in one of Australia’s largest maritime warfare exercises, Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER 17 from 13 February to 10 March 2017.
It was reported that more than 17 ships took part in the exercise at sea and in coastal areas near Lancelin, Geraldton and Geographe Bay.
Exercise Director Captain Jim Hutton said “The main aim of the exercise is to develop our task group capability, to operate a number of ships under one commander and focus primarily on sea control operations.
“This can include the full spectrum of maritime security operations; from diplomacy and international engagement at one end, through to humanitarian and disaster relief, constabulary and peacekeeping operations, and at the upper end of the spectrum, high end war fighting.”
A two-week sea phase incorporated anti-submarine and air defence exercises.
The exercise included the first visit to Western Australia by the Landing Helicopter Dock ship, HMAS Adelaide (L01) which was berthed at Fremantle Port from 22-27 February 2017 but not open to the public.
Two of the companies bidding for the A$35 billion Future Frigate project sent ships to take part in the exercise. Visiting for the first time was a Spanish Navy frigate, ESPS Cristobal Colon (F105), built by Spanish shipbuilding company Navantia, which visited Fremantle in late February 2017. Fincantieri was also represented in the exercise by one of their frigates, ITS Caribiniere (F593), which visited Fremantle in late-January 2017.
Aircraft taking part were deployed to RAAF Base Pearce, north of Perth, including:
- Ten McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18A Hornets of 75 Squadron, RAAF
- A21-3 F/A-18A ‘3 Squadron 100 years’ special blue tail markings
- A21-11 F/A-18A 2 OCU markings
- A21-14 F/A-18A 3 Sqn markings
- A21-24 F/A-18A 75 Sqn markings
- A21-31 F/A-18A 75 Sqn markings
- A21-35 F/A-18A 75 Sqn markings
- A21-37 F/A-18A 3 Sqn markings
- A21-46 F/A-18A 77 Sqn markings
- A21-51 F/A-18A 77 Sqn markings
- A21-115 F/A-18B – no unit markings
- Two Lockheed AP-3C Orions of 10 Squadron, RAAF (serials unknown)
- 168849 Boeing P-8A Poseidon of VP-10, US Navy – callsign ‘LANCER 99’
- A30-001 Boeing E-7A Wedgetail of 2 Squadron, RAAF
- A97-468 Lockheed-Martin C-130J-30 Hercules of 37 Squadron, RAAF
- Boeing C-17A Globemaster III of 36 Squadron, RAAF
- Learjet 35As (civilian-operated, four for target towing/target simulation and one for electronic warfare training):
- VH-LPF (‘AMBULANCE’ titles on wingtip tanks)
- VH-ESM Raytheon titles – callsign ‘SHADOW’ – electronic warfare training
Ship-based aircraft included:
- Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks of 725 Squadron, Royal Australian Navy:
- N48-020 ‘Gold Digger’ on HMAS Ballarat
- N48-021 ‘Blackjack’ on HMAS Parramatta
- NH Industries MRH-90 Taipan of Australian Army
- A40-018 on HMAS Adelaide
- A40-037 on HMAS Adelaide
- MM81584/3-08 NH Industries SH-90A of GRUPELICOT 5 (5° Gruppo Elicotteri), Italian Navy, aboard ITS Carabiniere (F593)
- NZ3619 Kaman SH-2G(I) Seasprite, of 6 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force, aboard HMNZS Te Kaha (F77).
Warships known to have participated include:
- ESPS Cristobal Colon (F105), Frigate, Spanish Navy
- HMNZS Te Kaha (F77), Frigate, Royal New Zealand Navy
- HMNZS Endeavour (A11), Oiler, Royal New Zealand Navy
- ITS Caribiniere (F593), Frigate, Italian Navy
- HMAS Adelaide (L01), Landing Helicopter Dock, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS Anzac (FFH150), Frigate, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS Parramatta (FFH154), Frigate, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS Ballarat (FFH155), Frigate, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS Darwin (FFG04), Frigate, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS Melbourne (FFG05), Frigate, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS Success (OR304), Multi-product Replenishment Oiler, Royal Australian Navy
- HMAS ??, Collins-class Submarine, Royal Australian Navy
- USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723), Los Angeles-class submarine, US Navy
NOTE: In an unrelated exercise, four Australian Army Sikorsky S-70A-9 Blackhawks also operated from Pearce during March 2017, including A25-101, A25-102, A25-103 and A25-223.