DARWIN, Australia -- The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) participated in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Exercise Kakadu 2022 (KA22) ashore in Darwin, Australia, and at sea in the waters off Northern Australian, Sept. 12-24.
KA22 is a RAN-led exercise supported by the Royal Australian Air Force. The exercise is their flagship biennial regional international engagement and has grown in size and complexity since its inception in 1993.
“Exercise Kakadu is our Navy’s most significant international engagement activity and is vital for building relationships between participating countries,” said RAN Chief of Navy Vice Adm. Mark Hammond.
Charleston was a part of KA22 Task Group 628.1, led by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Kirisame (DD 104), along with the Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Lekiu (FFG 30), Royal Thai Navy frigate HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG 471), French Navy frigate FS Vendemiaire (F 734), and RAN frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157).
Additional U.S. Navy participation in KA22 included staff from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.
“Australia is one of our closest allies. It is a great honor and privilege for USS Charleston to be participating, along with several regional partners, in their flagship naval exercise,” said Cmdr. Clay Beas, commanding officer of Charleston.
The harbor phase, which took place Sept. 12-15, included briefs by the multi-national exercise control shore element, task group breakout sessions, pre-sail briefs, a sports day, and opening and closing ceremonies.
“Experiencing Darwin and meeting all the great people from countries around the world has definitely been a highlight,” said Mineman 3rd Class Timothy Messick, assigned to Charleston. “I think building the personal relationships during events like sports day and the professional relationships at sea are what these exercises are all about.”
The KA22 at-sea portion, which took place Sept. 15-24, was split into two phases – force integration training and free-play. Each phase displayed a breadth of training evolutions ranging from basic ship maneuvering to high-end naval maritime warfare in a combined environment.
These exercises included: air defense, flight operations, surface warfare, gunnery exercises, small boat drills, man overboard drills, and replenishments-at-sea.
“The partnership, leadership and friendship displayed these past two weeks is critical in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Beas.
KA22 is the 15th iteration of the RAN’s flagship biennial regional maritime international engagement exercise, drawing together approximately 3000 personnel, 15 warships and more than 30 aircraft from 22 countries.
Attached to DESRON 7, Charleston is on a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the region, and to work alongside allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as Expeditionary Strike Group 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.
Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.