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British and Australian ships continue partnership after frigate's Sydney visit

HMS Sutherland with HMAS Toowoomba
26 March 2018
Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland is continuing her global deployment this week with a series of exercises with the Royal Australian Navy.

In company with the Australians’ Anzac-class frigate HMAS Toowoomba, Sutherland left the iconic Sydney Harbour on 16 March 18 having taken part in the RAN’s anti-submarine warfare exercise Ocean Explorer.

The two frigates headed north together, seizing the opportunity to undertake some shared training with a shared mindset – Sutherland’s motto is Sans Peur, which translates to Without Fear, while Toowoomba’s is Fearless.

Officer of the watch manoeuvres, where the ships work closely together in tactical formation, have been practised regularly, challenging the bridge teams as the two ships station on each other then simultaneously undertake a series of manoeuvres. 

HMS Sutherland’s Commanding Officer, Commander Andrew Canale, said: “The exercises with HMAS Toowoomba have been wide-ranging and challenging. 

“These two weeks, following a month-long visit to Australia, demonstrate the strength of our partnership and reinforce the ability of the RN to work with our Australian counterparts.”

The exercises with HMAS Toowoomba have been wide-ranging and challenging.

Commander Andrew Canale

The two ships have held a series of overnight exercises, improving their ability to work alongside in the dark. The Australian destroyer HMAS Hobart joined the exercise for one day, adding to the challenge.

While the other two ships were in company, some of the crew from both Sutherland and Toowoomba had the chance to swap ships, cross-decking via boat transfers with an overnight stay for some. It allows a select few from each navy to experience the other’s way of working.

Sub Lieutenant Chris Holt was one of the sailors from HMS Sutherland to cross over to the Australian ship. He said: “We were made to feel very welcome by the Australians. They love the fact we work together in the Middle East.”

The Middle East is one of the regions where the two navies regularly collaborate on maritime security operations to counter weapons smuggling, drug running and acts of piracy.

An important element of maritime security operations, boarding capability is regularly practised by both ships. In a challenging training exercise, the two frigates simultaneously undertook simulated boarding operations on each other’s ships using their own sea boats. 

The 15 boarding personnel from HMAS Toowoomba were greeted by members of HMS Sutherland’s ship’s company, who played the parts of merchant sailors. Once on board, the RAN team checked relevant paperwork and searched compartments as they would on a merchant vessel. 

HMS Sutherland later sent its own boarding team, comprising members of the ship’s company, to HMAS Toowoomba. The ship’s Wildcat helicopter was launched in advance with two Royal Marine snipers on board, providing an overwatch of the whole operation. 

By the end of a busy morning, four sea boats, a helicopter and two frigates had co-operated in the boarding exercise to develop their working relationship and understanding of each other’s practices.  

The two weeks gave the ship’s Wildcat flight team ample opportunity to undertake exercises, flying both in the daytime and at night, practising core tasks and maintaining skills. In a challenging night flight, the helicopter’s team trained in load lifting and winching, both essential capabilities in a potential humanitarian assistance and disaster relief situation. 

As the two ships crossed the line back into the northern hemisphere, they each held a flight deck barbecue on the theme of a “Commonwealth Big Lunch” to celebrate their Commonwealth connections. Members of the combined ships’ crews, from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean, enjoyed the chance to share food once again.

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