Australia — PASSEX with USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group

PERMISSION TO CLOSE GRANTED” sig­nalled the start of a unique expe­ri­ence for HMAS Bal­larat (CMDR Jonathan Ear­ley) dur­ing a short notice PASSEX with the USS George Wash­ing­ton Car­ri­er Strike Group on 13 Jun 12 while tran­sit­ing from Japan to Guam.

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The Roy­al Aus­tralian Navy Anzac-class frigate, HMAS Bal­larat (FFH 155) steams along­side the Ticon­dero­ga-class guid­ed mis­sile cruis­er USS Cow­pens (CG 63) while in for­ma­tion with the U.S. Navy’s for­ward-deployed air­craft car­ri­er USS George Wash­ing­ton (CVN 73).
Source: Aus­tralian Depart­ment of Defence
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The PASSEX was planned at short notice after Com­man­der Task Force 70, RDML Haley, invit­ed Bal­larat to meet up at sea on com­ple­tion of their port vis­it to White Beach, Oki­nawa. The PASSEX con­sist­ed of Offi­cer of the Watch Manoeu­vres and AIO/Communication Exer­cis­es with USS Cow­pens (CG-63) and per­son­nel exchanges and heli­copter oper­a­tions with USS George Wash­ing­ton (CVN-73).

A key high­light for many onboard Bal­larat was the unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to be sta­tioned 300 yards on the port beam of George Wash­ing­ton to observe a full launch and recov­ery cycle on the car­ri­er. The full range of air­craft were wit­nessed in action includ­ing FA18F Super Hor­nets, E2C Hawkeyes, SH60F Sea­hawks and the large C2 logis­tics trans­port air­craft launch­ing and and land­ing every few min­utes.

Three mem­bers of ship’s com­pa­ny were also lucky enough to be select­ed for a cross deck onto George Wash­ing­ton. Flown to the CVN by SH-60F Sea­hawk, the crew mem­bers were host­ed by COMDESRON 15, CAPT John L. Shultz and his team. They were giv­en an exten­sive tour of the ship includ­ing the com­bat direc­tion cen­tre, bridge and were for­tu­nate to be allowed to observe flight oper­a­tions on the flight deck itself. For one lucky mem­ber of Ballarat’s ship’s com­pa­ny, ABEW Bian­ca Hall said it was a high­light of her deploy­ment so far:

“It was a great chance to see an air­craft car­ri­er in full flight up close from the flight deck” ABEW Hall said.

“I was very lucky to be cho­sen. The Amer­i­cans were very friend­ly and always took the time to explain how things worked on the car­ri­er and they let me take as many pho­tos as I want­ed. The only dis­ap­point­ment was I didn’t have more time to explore this amaz­ing ship.”

Three mem­bers of George Washington’s crew also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to spend a lit­tle time in Bal­larat dur­ing the PASSEX. Lieu­tenants Lydia Mag­gio and Sarah Nash, both Nuclear Reac­tor Engi­neers in ‘G-Dub’ (as she is known to her crew) were not only excit­ed to see Bal­larat but also to get out of their engi­neer­ing spaces!

“This is the first time I have seen sun­light in two weeks” Lt Mag­gio said, “As Nuclear Engi­neers we gen­er­al­ly keep to the one sec­tion of the ship and it is many decks down from the flight deck.” Both offi­cers were pro­vid­ed with a full tour of Bal­larat and had the chance to spend some time in the ward­room, includ­ing lunch.

“The food on Bal­larat was fan­tas­tic, the vari­ety and qual­i­ty is a lot dif­fer­ent than the meals pro­vid­ed on board G-Dub” Lt Mag­gio said

The PASSEX fin­ished once all per­son­nel were returned to their respec­tive ships. Although it was only a short PASSEX, it was def­i­nite­ly a high­light for Ballarat’s crew who were able to observe George Wash­ing­ton up close doing what she does best. The George Wash­ing­ton (CVN 73) is a Nimitz Class Air­craft Car­ri­er that com­mis­sioned on the 4th of July 1992. She dis­places over 100,000 tons, has a crew of over 6,000 and can car­ry over 90 fixed wing and rotary air­craft. Based out of Yoko­su­ka Naval Base, Japan she is part of the Unit­ed States Navy’s Sev­enth Fleet.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia