In a first, personnel from Navy hydrographic survey ship HMAS Melville laid two inert minefields as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 21 (TS21). Melville’s core capability is military survey and geospatial intelligence gathering.

Executive Officer Melville Lieutenant Commander Adrian Eddy said laying mines required innovation and adaptability from the crew, who were learning the intricacies of mine-laying operations for the first time. “Leeuwin-class hydrographic ships have never conducted mine-laying before, so effectively executing this tasking moves us closer to the development of underwater mastery,” Eddy said.

The laying of the minefields involved craning eight inert or ‘dummy’ mines of varying shapes, sizes and weights in the exercise area off the coast of Townsville. While they are designed to look, feel and even move like the real thing to pose a realistic challenge to detection, dummy mines don’t contain any explosive components. The ship’s company appreciated the varied warfare roles the ship conducted throughout TS21, making it an exciting time to be a hydrographic sailor.

Maritime geospatial officer – hydrography Lieutenant David Picker said participating in the biennial exercise was a great opportunity. “This was our chance to show that we have the capability to be strong contributors in a warfare scenario,” Picker said.

With favourable weather conditions and a good plan, the crew was able to lay all eight mine shapes over two days. In the days that followed, units were tasked with locating the inert sea mines and disposing of them. The units worked in open waters and a nearby busy fishing area to clear the minefield to allow for safe passage of the allied task group.


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