02 August 2012
NZ Defence Force Plays Its Part in World’s Largest Maritime Exercise
As the world’s largest maritime exercise draws to a close, the NZ Defence Force personnel participating in Exercise RIMPAC have demonstrated their skills and capabilities on the international stage.
Ships and submarines participating in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 sail in formation in the waters around the Hawaiian islands. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith Devinney.
The frigate HMNZS TE KAHA, fleet replenishment ship HMNZS ENDEAVOUR, and the Navy's Operational Diving Team, Mine Counter Measures Team and Maritime Survey Team; a Rifle Platoon from 1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment of the NZ Army; and a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion, as well as large number of headquarters staff have taken part in Exercise Rim of the Pacific which finishes on Friday.
The New Zealand contingent h elp make up the more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 22 nations that participated in RIMPAC from 29 June, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and mainland San Diego.
The NZ Defence Force has made a valuable contribution to RIMPAC, and it has been a unique opportunity for our people to train alongside a host of nations as part of a complex large scale exercise, says Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Dave Gawn.
“Our participation in RIMPAC has enabled our people to demonstrate their capability, their skills, as well as their ability to work well with a range of partners. Our people have certainly proven themselves and have been well respected.”
Soldiers from the New Zealand Army, alongside Marines from 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment and Soldiers from the Republic of South Korea, entered the Kahuku Training Area (on the Northern side of Oahu) by CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters.
HMNZS TE KAHA and HMNZS ENDEAVOUR recently lined up in formation with around 40 other Naval Ships, concentrated into an area approximately three square miles in size. It involved a total of 16,000 personnel and the fleet weighed in at half a million tonnes collectively. For many personnel, it was the first time they had seen such an impressive array of vessels.
“When you are operating over such a large expanse of water over an extended period of time, it is easy to forget just how important this exercise is and what it means for the Pacific region. However, when you see all the ships lined up it makes you appreciate the importance of being involved”, says CDR Keith Robb, Commanding Officer of HMNZS ENDEAVOUR.
The NZ Army infantry platoon has been operating from the Amphibious Assault Vessel, USS ESSEX, and their training culminated with a heliborne assault into the Kahuku Training Area on Oahu’s North Shore. Working with soldiers from other nations was challenging yet rewarding, says Platoon Commander, Second Lieutenant Andy Bedford.
“It’s been an extremely busy period for us, and once we overcame the language difficulties, we were able to work closely with soldiers from other nations. Being able to learn how they might develop a tactical solution to a problem and being exposed to some of their equipment has been extremely rewarding.”
As the exercise ramped up, the NZ Air Force P-3K Orion role became more complex, moving on from the detection and tracking of sub-surface contacts, to determining whether a submarine contact was ‘hostile’ and how to respond accordingly in a graduated and legal manner. The Kiwi crew worked alongside a number of nations as part of a coordinated multinational Air Force effort.
The Mine Counter Measures Team, Operational Dive Team and Maritime Survey Team were able to share their Humanitarian and Disaster Relief experiences in New Zealand, and the team were praised by other nations for their unique approach to problem solving, searching and successfully finding exercise mines in a challenging environment.
“The exercise required us to search for mines within Pearl Harbour and ensure that the channels leading into the Harbour were clear of any obstacles or hazards. This is something we are very familiar with, having provided a similar response to the Christchurch Earthquake and the MV Rena disaster, and other nations were very interested in what we could offer to the exercise,” says Lieutenant Commander Deane Ingram, Commanding Officer of the Mine Counter Measures Team.
This has been the first time in 28 years that the Defence Force has taken part in RIMPAC, and it has been a valuable opportunity to further build our interoperability and relationships with a large number of Pacific nations, adds Major General Dave Gawn.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion taking off.
“Participation in exercises like RIMPAC also enables the Defence Force to prepare for a variety of contingencies to ensure that New Zealand can play its part effectively in working with other nations to reduce conflict and improve stability in the Pacific and around the world.”