The Royal Australian Navy has completed its largest deployment of the year, with all of the Task Group ships returning home after three months of engagement with regional partners across Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
As HMAS Hobart sailed into Sydney on Friday, it marked the final ship arriving home after a busy Regional Presence Deployment 2020.
The remainder of the Task Group included the RAN ships Canberra, Stuart, Arunta and Sirius.
Sea exercises and a rescue
During its time at sea the Australian contingent exercised with 11 regional partners, including Brunei, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States.
The ships also conducted advanced air-sea integration drills with the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Navy in waters off Guam and participated in the world’s largest maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) in Hawaii.
In addition, HMAS Canberra was part of the successful search and rescue of three sailors in the Micronesia, a rescue that made headlines around the world for its ‘Robinson Crusoe’ feel.
First female to lead force
Commander of the Task Group, Captain Phillipa Hay, became the first female to lead an exercise task force in the 49-year history of Rimpac.
Hay said it had been an honour to lead the Task Group and she was extremely grateful and proud of the efforts of the professional Royal Australian Navy’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. The mission has also been enormously successful, achieved through hard work and true blue Australian strength of character,” she said.
“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.”
Strict coronavirus protocols
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ships conducted only a few logistics visits outside of Australia, resupplying and refuelling in accordance with strict protocols that mitigate COVID-19-related risks.
Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds, said the navy had further strengthened Australia’s relationships with regional partners during the deployment.
“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,” Reynolds said.