HMAS Newcastle has handed over security operations for Operation SLIPPER in support of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in the Middle East to HMAS Melbourne.
Newcastle has provided maritime security around the Horn of Africa, conducted counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations in the Gulf of Aden and executed counter-terrorism activities since May 28, 2013.
The Guided Missile Frigate handed over to sister ship HMAS Melbourne on September 24, 2013.
HMAS Newcastle's Commanding Officer, Commander Paul O’Grady CSM, RAN said the ship’s company of 230 personnel will conduct a logistical stop at Fleet Base West before making the final voyage home to Sydney to reunite with family and friends.
“Since 28 May 2013 HMAS Newcastle has provided maritime security from the Horn of Africa to the Red Sea, conducted counter-piracy and counter-smuggling operations from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Gulf and performed counter-terrorism activities throughout the wide area of operations,” Commander O’Grady said.
“These operations were supported by coalition air assets, including Newcastle’s own S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter, which has flown more than 300 hours in support of boarding operations, search and rescues and medical evacuations.”
Commander O’Grady said the deployment has included many highlights including some that made international news headlines.
“There can be no greater responsibility than to assist fellow mariners in distress and Newcastle did so on two occasions.
“Firstly in providing emergency assistance to the disabled Merchant Tanker Perla who had suffered a main machinery fire in the Somali Basin and had two burned crewmen. We were able to winch on a medical team and evacuate the crewmen for further treatment.
“Later in the deployment we conducted a search and rescue in conjunction with a Chinese Navy frigate for fishermen lost at sea in the Indian ocean.
“During the deployment Newcastle was also utilised as the venue for the Ministerial signing of two important documents that have a direct relationship to why the Royal Australian Navy deploys to the Middle East Area of Operation.
“These important bilateral agreements between Australia and the Republic of Seychelles will help prevent and combat piracy.
“Newcastle’s achievements over the course of the deployment are due to her close knit team and esprit de corps.
“The crew has worked hard together in the preparation and conduct of this mission and their determination and collective experience has united them into a cohesive force, willing to undertake any challenge.
“Newcastle’s professionalism and performance has been of the highest standard. Every one of our team should be proud of their contributions to Australia’s reputation in the region and the effectiveness of the Combined Maritime Force.”
HMAS Newcastle’s deployment has been a 58,000km journey with more to come during her return home.
She has conducted 13 underway refuelings with support ships from the U.S., U.K. and France, visited seven different ports throughout Africa and the Middle East and conducted 157 separate boarding actions.
Newcastle has remained on task at sea for over 80% of her deployment and most importantly the dedicated maintenance and engineering crews have ensured the ship has not missed a single day of tasking.
All this was done in the extreme heat of an Arabian summer and the often arduous sea conditions of the monsoon season.
HMAS Melbourne takes over operations with the Combined Maritime Forces and will hand over to HMAS Darwin later this year.
HMAS Melbourne is the 56th rotation of a Navy warship to the Middle East since the first Gulf War in 1990 and is the 32nd ship to deploy to the Middle East since as part of Operations SLIPPER and CATALYST since September 2001.