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Exercise Double Trouble

By FGOFF Byron Wagstaff

Exercise Double Trouble was a bilateral Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise with New Zealand and Australian naval and air forces, which operated in the Western Australian Exercise Area (WAXA), from 26 June–10 July 2010. No. 5 Squadron sent one aircraft and crew that operated out of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Pearce, Perth. FGOFF Byron Wagstaff was there.

Sea approach: An RAAF S70-B Seahawk helicopter landing on RAN frigate, HMAS ANZAC. Photo courtesy of the RAAF.
An RAAF helicopter

Exercise Double Trouble provided No. 5 SQN’s crew the opportunity to participate in a combined Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Exercise with our Australian counterparts. We also experienced training with, and against, multiple submarines in the littoral and deep water environment within a multi-air asset scenario.

The aim of the exercise was for Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submarines—HMAS COLLINS, DECHANAINEUX and WALLER—to conduct operational workups and assess their level of capability in a number of core competencies that included surveillance, interdiction, and intelligence collection.

Other players included a RAN HMAS Anzac Frigate and two S70-B Seahawk helicopters from RAAF 816 SQN. All flights were carried out in the West Australian Exercise Area (WAXA)—a relatively large portion of restricted airspace that kept all exercise flights clear of civil air traffic.

During the first week, a number of combined ASW Exercise sorties were conducted that involved a single submarine and a maritime patrol aircraft. These exercise scenarios allowed the crew to step through their individual operating procedures in a methodical sequence, working through the phases of ASW action as the flight developed.

The P3-K is fitted with a number of advanced sensors, which pose a serious threat to the submariner when trying to evade detection. Throughout the Exercise, these sensors were employed to best use by the Tactical Coordinator (Tacco), depending on mission considerations and the tactics likely to be employed by the ‘enemy’ submarine.

During the ASW flights—once a submarine was detected—the Tacco directed the aircraft to maintain continual knowledge of the submarine’s position course and speed, from which an accurate ‘attack’ could be achieved.

The P3-K is equipped to carry the MK46 torpedo. However during the exercise, ‘attacks’ were simulated using an Electronic Signal device known as ESUS, which was dropped from the bomb bay. This device projected a discrete tone alerting the submarine that an ‘attack’ has been carried out. The submariner recorded the position of his unit during the attack, which was then given to the crew, post-flight, for analysis and assessment of ‘attack’ accuracy.

Dolphin dive: RAN submarine, HMAS DECHANAINEUX, being led by dolphins. Photo courtesy of the RAAF.
Dolphin dive

As the exercise progressed, sorties became more complex, with the submarine employing more aggressive evasion techniques to the aircrafts presence. Water space management became a priority as three submarines were frequently operating within a confined area and the potential existed to detect and track the wrong submarine. The introduction of other air and surface assets into the sorties posed a greater challenge to the crew—communication—which is vitally important for a crew to operate effectively. Fortunately, the flow of information continued to improve throughout the exercise, with the crew demonstrating a high level of situation awareness and coordination when conducting airspace de-confliction and ASW scene of action control. In the final two sorties, the crew was tasked to provide direct support to HMAS ANZAC, and worked with Seahawk Helicopters to protect the force from submarine ‘attacks’. Throughout these sorties the crew maintained continual contact with the submarine, conducting multiple attacks that provided valuable training for all involved.

Overall, Exercise Double Trouble was a success that reinforced the RNZAF’s relationship with the Australian forces. No. 5 SQN achieved a number of key training aims for a relatively junior crew, including a successful Captain upgrade in Protective Operations.

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