Australia has deployed its largest naval task force since the 1980s on a nearly three-month tour of Asia to shore up support with key allies during a period of tension in the region.
The Joint Task Group is being led by the Royal Australian Navy’s new helicopter carrier HMAS Adelaide and will be accompanied by a rotating roster of escorts as well as the support tanker HMAS Sirius. Leaving Sydney on Monday morning in company with the Adelaide were the guided-missile frigates HMA Ships Melbourne and Darwin and Anzac-class vessels Toowoomba and Parramatta.
Australia has not deployed such a formation of vessels since its last conventional aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne was decommissioned in the early 1980s with the election of the Hawke Government and suspension of the carrier replacement programme.
The mission, which will run from the 4th September to 26th November, has been named Indo-Pacific Endeavour and will make visits to regional allies including Brunei, Cambodia, the Federated States of Micronesia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.
It is expected that the tour will consist of a variety of training exercises in both military and humanitarian operations as well as port calls and diplomatic visits.
Speaking at the departure of the vessels Defence Minister, Senator Payne, described to deployment as “another opportunity to promote security cooperation in the region and exercise our humanitarian and disaster relief capability where it may be used”.
She then added that, “the Joint Task Group will demonstrate the Australian Defence Force’s ability to operate across the full spectrum of military operations, from high-end military capabilities such as anti-submarine warfare to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
With tensions on and around the Korean peninsula high following recent missile tests by North Korea the visits of the task group to Japan and South Korea will attract significant attention. In recent days, the Australian government has continued its condemnation of the tests, while calling upon China to put pressure on Pyongyang to fall back in line.