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Spey joins Australia’s biggest military exercise for two-week workout

30 September 2022
Patrol ship HMS Spey joined Australia’s signature military exercise – the first time a Royal Navy warship has taken part.

Staged every two years, Kakadu – in 2022 played out in the northern Australia with the port city of Darwin as the hub – focuses on the ability of the Royal Australian Navy and her partners/allies to operate and fight together.

In particular, the hosts are keen to learn how to work with navies they do not often exercise alongside.

Participants spent a week in Darwin in northern Australia getting to know each other and their different working practices before heading to sea for the nine-day active phase of the combined training,

Although Kakadu has been run on 14 previous occasions, this is the first time a Royal Navy warship has joined the international exercise, which was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Two years later and 19 ships and submarines, nearly three dozen aircraft and over 3,000 military personnel from countries – or with vital interests – in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, including Fiji, Japan, USA, France, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Destroyers, frigates, corvettes and littoral combat ships of varying designs and capabilities sailed in two task groups to undertake training activities to teach task groups to work together.

The ships split into opposing task groups, playing out a scenario of an aggressor nation (‘Blueland’) trying to flex its muscles to intimidate its nearest neighbour (‘Redland’).

In the opening days of the sea phase, ships undertake gun firing and defend themselves against fast jets simulating guided missiles from sophisticated P-8 maritime patrol aircraft or from a submarine.

Spey took her place with Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Broome and the Republic of Fiji vessel RFNS Savenaca to patrol and protect ‘Redland’ waters.

The British ship knuckled down to formation sailings in close proximity, Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres, boarding exercises and reactions to fast inshore attack craft, but she also loaned sailors for some other exercise activities. 

 
They provide the opportunity to build partnerships, friendships and learn from one another in a safe and controlled environment. It increases collective capability to be able to respond better to the changing needs of the maritime security environment.

Commander Michael Proudman

“We were asked to act as smugglers aboard a small vessel and the Australian teams would then carry out boarding actions,” said Petty Officer Marc ‘Bomber’ Brown, Spey’s deputy coxswain.

“Four of Spey ship’s Company were involved and we managed to initially throw them off their game. The team the adapted quickly to restrain us and overall it was a good laugh and great to interact with them as a Navy.”

Among the temporary smugglers was 18-year-old Engineering Technician Benjamin Smith from Manchester.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in a boarding exercise. It was good to see how other navies conduct boarding operations and how we are similar or differ. I feel it was a real training benefit; we did not make it easy for the Australians as we role played not very compliant people to see how they react to this. It was fun and this is an exercise I would love to be involved in again and was good to keep up relations with the Australian Navy.”

Spey’s Commanding Officer Commander Michael Proudman said participation in exercises like Kakadu was vital to the RN’s wider understanding of operating in the Pacific and the UK’s allies in the region.

“They provide the opportunity to build partnerships, friendships and learn from one another in a safe and controlled environment. It increases collective capability to be able to respond better to the changing needs of the maritime security environment. 

Cdr Proudman continued. “There are many Commonwealth nations amongst us and this bond gives us strength, unity and common values which are the foundation of our societies.

“HMS Spey has been welcomed, supported and partnered as a true friend, by a great many Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries alike throughout her time in the region.

“The crew have already gained phenomenal experiences as part of this deployment. The main highlights are the cultural links and appreciation that the Ship’s Company gain from our friends in this region, who have welcomed us with open arms and work together with us.” 


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