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Wednesday, 5 February 1997
Page: 211

(Question No. 304)


Senator Bourne asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 11 November 1996:

(1) Did HMAS Shoalwater conduct a `Lead-through' exercise with the submarine HMAS Onslow on or about 9 August 1996.

(2) Did HMAS Shoalwater take HMAS Onslow between North and South Heads in Sydney into the Pacific.

(3) Do `Lead-through' exercises involve taking a vessel through a swept channel in a minefield; if so, what was the nature of the minefield in this exercise.

(4) Did HMAS Shoalwater clear the passage.

(5) Did HMAS Shoalwater know the location of the minefield (for example, between North and South Heads) in advance.

(6) How many `Lead-through' exercises were conducted in each of the calendar years 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996 to date, or as many of these years for which data is available.

(7) How many of the exercises referred to in (6) involved HMAS Shoalwater and/or HMAS Rushcutter .

(8) Where was each exercise referred to in (7) held.

(9) In each case referred to in (7), what was the sea state.

(10) In each case referred to in (7), how far beyond the relevant harbour did Minehunter Inshore proceed before returning to harbour.

(11) Are HMAS Rushcutter and HMAS Shoalwater considered deployable under their own power to ports and focal areas outside Sydney Harbour; if so: (a) up to what sea state; and (b) on how many occasions and for what purpose has each been deployed since commissioning and acceptance by the Navy.


Senator NEWMAN —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) and (2) HMAS Shoalwater conducted a Lead-through exercise with HMAS Onslow on 9 August 1996; the predetermined channel used in this exercise passed between North and South Heads in the approaches to Port Jackson.

(3) The aim of a Lead-through is to give navigation support to other vessels, to allow them to pass as close as possible to the centreline of a channel, or ordered track in an area, which as been subjected to Mine Countermeasures (MCM) in response to a mine threat. The objective for the customer vessel is to pass over the same ground as the Lead-through Unit and thereby minimise risk of damage from mine detonation. The 9 August exercise objective was to exercise Lead-through procedures exclusively, and involved a simulated minefield only.

(4) Since the minefield in this instance was simulated, HMAS Shoalwater was not required to clear the channel prior to the Lead-through.

(5) As is the practice with all Lead-through operations, the 9 August exercise was conducted along a predetermined route known to both participating units.

(6) Lead-through operations are routine activities for Minehunters and Minesweepers, with the former required to complete six annually to maintain minimum level of capability. At least 12 Lead-through operations are conducted annually in the course of Fleet Concentration Periods, Major Fleet Unit Workup, MCM Exercises, and on an ad-hoc basis as requested by other units.

(7) Minehunters are the preferred platform to provide Lead-through but Minesweepers are also capable of conducting the operation. The majority of Lead-through operations since 1991 involved Minehunter Inshore (MHI) augmented on occasion by Minesweeper Auxiliary (Large) and (Small).

(8) Lead-through exercises are routine operations which have been conducted on numerous occasions from Sydney, Newcastle, Jervis Bay, Port Kembla, Townsville, Cairns, Weipa, Darwin, and in the Torres Strait.

(9) MHI Lead-through have been successfully conducted in Sea States One to Four inclusive.

(10) Depending upon hydrographic dictates of the port or area in which the operation is conducted, MHI Lead-through have been successfully conducted along routes from 2 to 35 nautical miles in length.

(11) In the course of general operations, MHI frequently operate in the coastal waters between Jervis Bay and Newcastle. MHI transit in Sea State Three, during transit seek shelter in Sea State Four and above, and are considered deployable under their own power to ports and focal areas outside Port Jackson. These deployments enabled participation in general warfare exercises (eg Kangaroo `95), bilateral Maritime exercises (eg Kakadu), MCM exercises and support for Defence Science and Technology Organisation trials. MHI deployments are summarised as follows:

MHI Deployments Outside the Jervis Bay to Newcastle Operating Area

HMAS Rushcutter

From Commissioning 1 November 1986 to Accepted into Naval Service (AINS) in June 1994:

10 Deployments—including operations or visits to Eden, Coffs Harbour, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns

From June 1994 to November 1996:

Five Deployments—including operations or visits to Weipa, Thursday Island, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Bundaberg and Port Macquarie.

HMAS Shoalwater

From Commissioning 10 October 1987 to AINS in June 1994:

14 Deployments—including operations and visits to Hobart, Devonport, Burnie, Geelong, Melbourne, Port Welshpool, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns

From June 1994 to November 1996:

Nine Deployments—including operations or visits to Darwin, Gove, Thursday Island, Weipa, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Brisbane, Ulladulla, Devonport, Geelong, Melbourne and Adelaide.