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Royal Navy joins allies in test of latest undersea tech during major exercise in Australia

14 November 2023
Patrol ship HMS Tamar has strengthened ties with the Australian and US Navies in the Pacific – and tested a keystone capability of the Royal Navy’s future fleet.

The Portsmouth-based warship has spent the past four weeks operating in and around Sydney, focusing on furthering links with the Royal Australian Navy and an Anglo-American-Australian exercise, testing new equipment which will increase the protection of critical underwater infrastructure.

The exercise, staged just off the coast of Sydney under the banner of the AUKUS partnership between the three countries, allowed the first run out of the Royal Navy’s new ‘PODS’ programme, designed to expand the capabilities of today’s – and tomorrow’s – warships.

The workout saw some 39 Royal Navy and US Navy Dive Team, hydrographers and Royal Marine communications specialists embark on Tamar. Supporting them were two mission PODS – Persistent Operational Deployment Systems.

Roughly the same size as a shipping container each POD contains equipment and support for a dedicated operation which a ship wouldn’t normally perform, such as minehunting, launching surveillance drones, perhaps kit for a Royal Marines boarding team or raiding party.

It’s a concept central to the design of and proposed operations by the Royal Navy’s next generation of frigates, the Type 26 and 31.

In addition, an Australian dive team embarked on the Australian Defence Vessel ADV Guidance with current and experimental underwater equipment.

Described as a combination of “exercise, tactical development and demonstration all in one”, crewed and uncrewed, autonomous and remotely-operated systems were tested, pushing the boundaries of technology and interaction between three extremely-close allies on and beneath the waves.

For Tamar’s Commanding Officer Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith, the exercise proved eye-opening on many levels – from the speed of technological development in underwater warfare (“the rate of progress in this sphere is astonishing”) to expanding the capabilities of the River class ships which can ‘plug and play’ the new PODS – and the concept bodes equally well for future Royal Navy warships.

“The most satisfying part for me was watching the team from Tamar working alongside UK, US and Australian experts so effectively. This is important – really important – and I’m proud that Tamar has played a significant role in facilitating this most recent step forward,” Cdr Elliot-Smith added.

The most satisfying part for me was watching the team from Tamar working alongside UK, US and Australian experts so effectively. This is important – really important – and I’m proud that Tamar has played a significant role in facilitating this most recent step forward.

Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith

Despite operating extensively in and around the Australian sub-continent for nearly two years, this was the first visit by HMS Tamar to Australia’s largest city.

Hosted at HMAS Kuttabul – the Royal Australian Navy east coast home and against the backdrop of the Royal Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

The patrol ship hosted a string of civilian and military VIPs, led by the head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key, who thanked the ship’s company for their persistent efforts and they provided him with an update on their exploits.

With so many iconic venues to witness and experience, Tamar’s 50-strong ship’s company made use of any spare time to take in the sights and sounds of Sydney and its surrounding area.

“From surfing at Bondi Beach and hiking in the Blue Mountains, to attending performances at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney has been an experience never to be forgotten,” said Sub Lieutenant Justine Lambert, Tamar’s Correspondence Officer

“A ‘bucket list’ for most and the pinnacle of ‘Join the Royal Navy and See the World’ for others. It certainly has been an excellent backdrop to the start of my time onboard HMS Tamar.”

Crew organised a football match against a team from HMAS Kuttabul.

“The opportunity to represent the Ship provided us the opportunity to meet our Australia counterparts, tell a few stories and see how similar our two Navies are – despite being from opposite sides of the Globe,” said IT and communications specialist Engineering Technician Niall Garvin.

HMS Tamar has now sailed from Sydney for a short period at sea ahead of a scheduled maintenance period and then onwards through Christmas and the New Year further afield across the Southern Hemisphere.

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