NEWS | July 9, 2018

Australia Amphib Capabilities Strengthened through Teamwork

By Australian Army Capt Megan McDermott

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII -- Australia took a leap forward in amphibious capability as 2nd Battalion (Amphibious), Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) soldiers released small boats into the ocean from a moving US Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise held in waters off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

It was an accomplishment for the soldiers as they proved themselves capable of helocasting, a water insertion method for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

Commanding Officer 2 RAR, Lieutenant Colonel Doug Pashley, said that in the Australian Army, helocasting is only employed by Special Operations units - at least that was the case up until now.

“We have been on the journey of delivering a world class pre-landing force since the start of the year and in just six months we have come a long way,” Pashley said. “On this exercise we have demonstrated an amphibious capability that did not exist in the conventional army until today - it would not have been possible without the tremendous support from our U.S. counterparts.”

As part of the Force Integration Training (FIT) phase, the soldiers spent two days honing their skills alongside U.S. Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF).

Training involved loading fully inflated FC470 Zodiacs (combat rubber small boats) into the heavy-lift helicopter, deploying the boats and leaping into the water from a height of 5-10 feet and an airspeed of 8-10 knots.

Earlier this year and with the assistance of both Special Operations Command and the 5th Aviation Regiment, 2 RAR developed the helocast capability.

This was further progressed during Exercise Sea Series and now during RIMPAC, the amphibious specialists have for the first time, incorporated combat equipment and small boats.

After a number of successful helocasts into the water, Pashley said 2 RAR, U.S. and Japanese soldiers validated their skills in the Pacific Ocean as part of a full mission profile.

“Rough waters proved challenging as the soldiers contended with ocean swells of up to 6 feet, swam to their boats and manoeuvred ashore for a reconnaissance mission,” he said.

Drop Zone Master, III MEF Gunnery Sgt. Dante Collins was impressed by 2 RAR’s effort.

“Out of six runs, every single one of them has been getting progressively better - they’ve been knocking it out of the park,” Collins said.

While 2 RAR took every opportunity to learn from the experienced Marines. Collins said the learning experience has been a two-way exchange.

“In the week that I’ve been training with 2 RAR, I’ve pulled a lot of techniques from the Aussies and they’ve drawn a lot of techniques from us,” he said. “Moving into the next phase, we are going to be successful because of the techniques we have shared during this training.”

On the completion of RIMPAC, Australia’s amphibious force will look to introduce the capability back home, said Pashley.

“We now have the training package, the standard operating procedures and experience to bring this back and incorporate it into the Australian Army,” he said. “I am confident that in the second half of this year we will be able to replicate the success we have had here during RIMPAC.”

Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, about 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.