As the sun rose over the Mozambique Channel on May 18, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Newcastle, steamed towards a rendezvous with French Ship (FS) Var to conduct replenishment at sea (RAS). Both warships are integrated in Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), in the aim to prevent terrorism and related illegal activity throughout the region. This was not the first meeting of these two vessels but it was to be the most complex evolution conducted so far.
The day’s evolution involved concurrent replenishment of fuel while food stores were embarked via a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) with Newcastle’s Seahawk helicopter.
Lieutenant (Lt) Thomas Ford, Newcastle’s Navigating Officer, said the crew of both vessels were well prepared for the task.
“The synergy demonstrated today between Newcastle and Var is no accident”, he said. “Both ships have recently conducted combined ship handling, search and rescue, RAS and VERTREP training exercises in the vicinity of the Seychelles.”
During the RAS both ships’ companies linked fueling equipment for the transfer of diesel and aviation fuel, while the Seahawk transferred vital cargo to replenish Newcastle’s ration holdings.
“Newcastle’s rations are now restored back to maximum capacity”, Deputy Maritime Logistics Officer Lt Samantha Walker said. In total 29 pallets of fresh, frozen, and refrigerated goods were transferred from Var’s flight deck to Newcastle.
Flight Commander, Lt Commander Chris Mitchell said the experienced coordination between the two ships was apparent, with the majority of loads transferred while the ships were linked together in their RAS positions.
“Recent VERTREP, transfer and helicopter control operations have enhanced the working relationship between the two nations and provided a solid training platform for the safe and successful conduct of today’s concurrent evolutions.”
Following the replenishment Newcastle was able to continue with maritime security operations, inside her area of responsibility. Newcastle is currently deployed on Operation MANITOU, which is Australia’s military contribution to the international effort to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region via counter terrorism, counter piracy and narcotics interdiction operations.
Newcastle is on patrol with the Combined Maritime Forces, CTF-150, of which Var is the Command Ship.
CTF-150 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces:
- CTF 150, responsible for maritime security and counter-terrorism;
- CTF-151, responsible for counter-piracy; and
- CTF-152, responsible for security and cooperation in the Arabian Gulf.
Task Force’s mandate is about promoting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment by countering terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund their operations or conceal their movements. CTF 150‘s Area of Operation spans over two million square miles and includes some of the world’s most important and busiest shipping lanes, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and Western Indian Ocean.