Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER has kicked off in Sydney with the first warships departing for a three week series of naval exercises involving forces from both sides of the Tasman and the British frigate HMS Sutherland. 

The first ten warships, accompanied by two submarines and with embarked aircraft left the Sydney Heads on Tuesday morning for what will be the second iteration of the sea control exercise. Testing various aspects of maritime warfare the vessels will be engaged in a variety of tasks up and down the New South Wales coast.

Participating vessels include the Australian flagship helicopter carrier HMAS Canberra, auxiliary HMAS Success, frigates HMA Ships Toowoomba, Anzac, Stuart and Melbourne and the submarine HMAS Farncomb. They will be joined by the Royal New Zealand Navy’s ANZAC class frigate HMNZS Te Mana and, briefly, the British Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland.

Speaking at the departure exercise director, Captain Jim Hutton RAN said this year’s OCEAN EXPLORER was about building on the success of last year.

“Last year’s Ocean Explorer saw the certification of a Sea Control Task Group for the Australian Defence Force – a first in recent times,” he said.

“In short succession, we deployed maritime task groups in complex multinational exercises such as TALISMAN SABRE and used them to excellent effect in the inaugural Joint Maritime Task Group deployment INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2017.

This year’s OCEAN EXPLORER is about continuing that exponential growth and ensuring we can hone our maritime warfare skills to meet any contingency.”

Exercises will occur between Jervis Bay on the south coast and Maitland Bay on the hunter coast. Activities will test anti-air and anti-submarine warfare, maritime strike and interdiction, command and control and ultimately and amphibious landing from the Canberra in the Bass Strait.

“The main aim of the exercise is to develop our task group capability, to operate a number of ships under one commander and focus primarily on sea control operations,” Captain Hutton said.

“This can include the full spectrum of maritime security operations; from diplomacy and international engagement at one end, through to humanitarian and disaster relief, constabulary and peacekeeping operations, and at the upper end of the spectrum, warfighting.”


  1. I’m pleased to see this close co-operation with our closest Commonwealth partners, they are after all mostly kith and kin. With the expansion of the Chinese Navy, it’s a wise move to demonstrate our combined strengths. If the RN achieves its goal of a full fleet of Type 26 and 31’s it may be possible to station at least one in the Antipodes?

    • Are you Australian by any chance ? If we have enough warships to station some in Australia I would humbly suggest we would have to many ! Given the choice I’d sooner we gave our ‘mostly kith and kin’ another Bay class. By the way how did that work out Sir ?

    • Wishful thinking, but I think a more realistic scenario would be to station a frigate at either our naval base in Bahrain, HMS Jafair or our upcoming support facility in Oman, Duqm. Which is basically what we already do on 6-9 month deployments.

    • In the international game of poker that is today’s reality in the South China Sea I’ll see your one Royal Navy frigate and raise you the Chinese navy order of battle:

      1 aircraft carrier – commissioned
      1 aircraft carrier – launched and in final fit out
      1 aircraft carrier – under construction
      4 amphibious transport docks
      32 landing ship tanks
      31 landing ship medium
      29 destroyers
      50 frigates
      37 corvettes
      109 missile boats
      94 submarine chasers
      17 gunboats
      29 mine countermeasure vessels
      68 submarines
      12 replenishment ships
      232 auxiliaries

      I don’t think the Chinese will be losing any sleep over our ‘combined strength’.

  2. I’m too young to remember the Second World War but I imagine that it gave us great comfort when the Aussies and Kiwis (and Canucks) sent their warships (and other forces) to our aid. If there is ever trouble in the Pacific, we will be morally bound to do what we can to help them. We should regularly exercise with their armed forces in order to be better prepared to assist in extremis. I’m afraid that we do not have the spare capacity to permanently station them down under, though…

  3. Just bear in mind that if there was a conflict with China it would probably also involve Japan, South Korea and the USN. But a combined commonwealth Task Force would be a great asset.


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