As Australia’s defence commitments focus more on the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of ongoing Chinese belligerence, the Navy is pulling back from its traditional commitments in the Middle East.
HMAS Toowomba was the last ship to deploy to the Middle East and returned home in June this year. There will now be no further ships committed for the foreseeable future. xxx
According to defence minister, Linda Reynolds, the RAN is currently more active in the Indo-Pacific region than it has been in decades.
Challenging strategic environment
“This year alone has seen Navy respond to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, a five-ship deployment throughout South East Asia and the Pacific, a continued commitment to initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners,” Reynolds said.
“We now face an increasingly challenging strategic environment which is placing greater demand on ADF resources closer to home.
“As a result, the Australian Defence Force will reduce its naval presence in the Middle East to enable more resources to be deployed in our region.”
RAN in Middle East for 30 years
The changes include ceasing the annual deployment of a Royal Australian Navy ship to the Middle East, and not extending Australia’s time-bound commitment to the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) beyond December 2020.
The latter is a consortium of countries officially tasked with maintaining order and security in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea, particularly when it comes to maritime security of global oil supply routes.
“For over 30 years we have supported freedom of navigation, maritime security and the free flow of commerce in the Middle East,” Reynolds said.
Was an invaluable commitment
“In cooperation with our partners, our commitments have been invaluable in disrupting global drugs trade, supporting the reduction of funding lines to terrorism activity and building the capacity of regional forces.”
Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, said these are historic changes for the Australian Defence Force.
“The outstanding contribution of Royal Australian Navy ships has been highly valued by our partners in the Middle East.
“We should all be proud of what the Royal Australian Navy has achieved over such a long period of sustained operations.”