In April 2004, HMAS Melbourne (aka the ‘Red Demon’) returned from her fourth Middle Eastern deployment in eight years. Now six years, four refits and one FFG upgrade later, HMAS Melbourne (Commander Michael John Harris) is destined to return for a fifth time, in support of Operation Slipper. When she departs Fleet Base East in August, she will be the first upgraded FFG to deploy in support of an operation.
|HMAS Melbourne prepares to repel boarders during an exercise
Source: Australian Department of Defence
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Having successfully fired the RAN’s first SM2 in December 2009, Melbourne underwent further capability enhancements in late April) and then filled her bunks to capacity with a keen ship’s company and the specialist personnel required for the Operation Slipperdeployment (including Flight Crews, Cryptological Linguists, Mine Clearance Divers and a Chaplain). For the first time in years, Melbourne has ‘No Vacancy’.
So with systems proven and the crew champing at the bit, the last hurdle remaining is a successful workup.
Melbourne’s workup period got off to a resounding start with the successful completion of the Mariner Skills Evaluation (MSE) in just three days (10–12 May) with the crew being deservedly proud of having passed their first presentation of a major Damage Control exercise. The week concluded with an ammunitioning alongside Eden, with the amount of ammo taken on being the largest by any RAN ship since the DDG’s were in commission.
The capability of the ship to respond to Force Protection incidents was tested 17–19 May, with Sea Training Group providing very realistic multi-threat scenarios. The Unit Readiness Workup commenced on 24 May, with the Evaluation completed 17–18 June. The crew is now preparing for its Mission Readiness Workup in July, which will further refine the ship’s company’s skills to react to possible activities in the Middle East.
It seems fitting that in the same year Melbourne celebrated her 18th birthday she will also come of age by leaving her Fleet Base East home and face the challenges of a deployment in support of Operation Slipper. In true deference to her motto, ‘Vires Acquirit Eundo’ (She Gathers Strength as She Goes), Melbourne has gathered strength for six years and finally, gets to go….once Sea Training Group are done of course.
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