Home' Navy News : October 15th 2009 Contents 15
October 15, 2009
THIS operation is a shift from the
critical infrastructure protection
operations that the RAN has under-
taken in the Northern Persian Gulf
for many years. Counter-narcotics,
illegal immigration, fishing and gen-
eral border protection make up much
of the operational experience of RAN
ships under Operations Catalyst,
Slipper and Resolute.
Counter-terrorism and counter-
piracy are now being added to that
experience. However, it requires a very
LCDR Ben Dalton, the Operations
Officer in Toowoomba, said that, dur-
ing counter-terrorism and counter-nar-
cotic operations, Toowoomba had to
act on specific intelligence regarding a
vessel or group of vessels.
"We locate and track the target ves-
sel and interdict when the opportunity
for surprise and success is considered
best," he said.
"Such operations may take several
days. Counter-piracy operations, how-
ever, are most likely to occur with sig-
nificantly less warning time. Although
historical patterns on pirate activity are
evident, a distress call or detection of
a pirate boat by our helicopter may be
the only notification of an impending
In addition to immediate respons-
es to acts of piracy, Toowoomba is
also being tasked to provide mer-
chant vessel assurance and protection
within sectors in the Internationally
Recommended Transit Corridor
Chief of Joint Operations, LTGEN
Mark Evans, who recently visited
Toowoomba, spoke openly about his
confidence in her ability to do the job.
"As an Anzac class frigate,
Toowoomba will provide a major
deterrent presence," he said.
"Other tasks will include escorting
merchant shipping in the maritime cor-
ridors of the Gulf of Aden, as well as
tracking and reporting on any piracy
"The ship's crew have trained for
these taskings and I have no doubt they
will excel in this important operation."
Toowoomba began her deployment
to the Middle East in June this year.
Until recently she had been partici-
pating in maritime support and coun-
ter-terrorism operations in the Gulf
of Oman and in the Northern Persian
-- LEUT Andrew Silver
Task Force 151
Task Force 151 (TF151) is a multi-
national task force established to
conduct counter piracy operations
throughout the Gulf of Aden, Somali
Basin, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
The task force's official objective
is to actively deter, disrupt and sup-
press piracy in order to protect global
maritime security and secure freedom
of navigation for all nations.
HMAS Toowoomba's role in the
task force involves patrolling and
deterring attacks in the Internationally
Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC),
a channel in the Gulf of Aden that is
patrolled by warships to allow mer-
chant ships safe passage.
The Commanding Officer of TF
151, US Navy RADM Scott Sanders,
welcomed Toowoomba to the Gulf
and commended her on the capability
she brings to the Gulf of Aden.
Toowoomba's CO, CMDR Ivan
Ingham, said the ship brought an elite
boarding party and some advanced
helicopter surveillance capabilities to
"I'm proud of what the ship will
contribute but there is also much to
be learnt from the other navies that
are operating in this region, which
now includes a significantly expanded
collection of nations from NATO, the
European Union, Iran, India, China and
Russia," he said.
"Understanding our role in coun-
ter-piracy operations is not only critical
to our own mission success, but also
the mission success of other Australian
warships who continue this work after
we have left."
-- LEUT Andrew Silver
PROTECTION: HMAS Toowoomba escorts
a commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden
during counter-piracy operations. Such
escorts have proven essential in these
Photo: POA Nathan Minnet
HMAS Toowoomba (CMDR Ivan Ingham) is the first Royal Australian Navy ship to join the US-led
Combined Task Force combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the Somali basin and off the Horn
of Africa. As reported in the October 1 edition of Navy News, Toowoomba thwarted a pirate
attack 50 miles off the coast of Yemen on September 20. LEUTs Andrew Silver and Kelli Lunt
explain more about the mission and its importance.
Pirate interception first for Toowoomba's boarding party
HMAS Toowoomba's boarding par-
ty's enhanced capability paid divi-
dends during their first interception of
Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden on
As Australia's contribution to US-
led Task Force 151 (Counter-Piracy),
Toowoomba responded to render assist-
ance to the bulk carrier, MV BC Portugal,
which was under threat of attack from
The eight Somalis on board the sus-
pected pirate vessel were found to be in
possession of an RPG launcher, six AK47
automatic assault rifles, a G-3 German
military assault rifle and a large cache of
A specially-formed team of clearance
divers from AUSCDTs One, Four and the
RAN Diving School, joined Toowoomba
to provide an enhanced level of special-
ist boarding capability for counter-piracy
operations. The ship's medic was also a
member of the boarding team.
OIC of the "Poseidon" Boarding
Party, LEUT Jace Hutchison, on loan from
AUSCDT Four, is adamant that the train-
ing procedures and maintenance of skills
for a Level 4 boarding team contributed
greatly to the smooth execution of the
"We found that our mission rehears-
al period, our mission readiness evalua-
tion and continuation training allowed us
to really step through our procedures very
quickly and with great confidence," LEUT
"It shows that our training really works
2IC CPOCD Andrew Welsh, AUSCDT
One, said the experience gained during
dhow boardings during Toowoomba's ear-
lier TF150 tasking had helped to prepare
the team for the pirate encounter.
"We had a good work-up during the
TF150 patrol," CPOCD Welsh said.
"You can't simulate the challenges and
difficulties associated with boarding dhows
in sea state four, which are the type of
conditions we encountered during our first
boardings on station.
"It's not just the conduct of getting
into and out of the vessels, but all the
other considerations while on board the
vessel, such as the language barrier, the
living conditions, the sights and the vari-
ous smells that can be quite confronting
to a Westerner. It was a great insight and a
good way to gain experience."
Specialist training for the Level 4
boarding capability of the Poseidon team
began long before they joined Toowoomba
in August. Training included intense physi-
cal preparation, as well as many hours of
LEUT Hutchison said once they got
approval, the two RHIBs were launched
in quick succession and the party was on
"We prepared for the worst, which
made our approach easier. Our first prior-
ity was to secure the suspect pirate ves-
sel and confiscate any obvious weapons.
Once that had been done we searched the
suspects and the vessel itself.
"The overall reaction from the men
was reluctant compliance. It was evident
that they were not pleased that they had
LEUT Hutchison was quietly under-
stated in his views on the efforts of his
"Boarding a suspect pirate vessel
presents a number of threats and risks,"
LEUT Hutchison said.
"The possibility of weapons, unpredict-
able behaviour or an adverse response,
especially if they feel threatened or their
judgement is impaired through drugs, and
of course the ever-present risks associated
with the weather and the sea environ-
ment, are just some of the threats.
"To make such a strong start to our
counter-piracy tasking is extremely pleas-
ing and encouraging for all the work that
"In establishing this capability in
Toowoomba we have generated skills and
experience that provide a foundation for
an enduring counter-piracy capability."
-- LEUT Kelli Lunt
READY AND ABLE: Toowoomba's boarding party, "Poseidon".
Photo: LEUT Kelli Lunt
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