May 28, 2001
Thousands of Australian soldiers and US Marines streamed out of landing
craft launched earlier from HMA Ships MANOORA and KANIMBLA and a squadron
of US LPAs to "take" Freshwater Beach in northern Queensland, last week.
They did not have it all their own way.
"Enemy" ships and aircraft had tried to stop them.
The amphibious landing was reminiscent of the many landings which took
place around the Pacific and into France during World War 2.
But last week's landing, the high point of the multi nation Exercise Tandem
Thrust, was highly technical in its planning, preparation and execution.
Involving 24,000 Australians, Americans and Canadians "in the field" and
another 3000 in background support, the exercise brought into use the
most modern defence apparatus available.
Long before the, Friday, May 18 pre-dawn landing, the RAN's LADS Fokker
Friendship aircraft had flown from its Cairns Airport base to use its
on board technical equipment to survey the routes for the "invasion" to
make sure they were obstacle free.
Below the RAN's new Huon class minehunters with their remotely controlled
cable cutting, video equipped, submersibles, looked for mines.
Even higher than the LADS Fokker was Global Hawk, the new unmanned surveillance
aircraft which had earlier flown non-stop from the US to South Australia.
When it came to the landing state-of-the art radar led approaching warships
towards their landing targets.
On Australian and US ships, including MANOORA, KANIMBLA and BLUE RIDGE
sophisticated satellite linked communication links were put to the test.
Soldiers and marines donned "night vision" glasses. So did pilots of Blackhawk
Unseen teams of RAN clearance divers shrugged into the latest in closed-circuit
diving equipment to make a "bubble free" check of the shallows prior to
the first troops going ashore.
As "attack time" neared MANOORA, KANIMBLA and the US Ships ESSEX, GERMANTOWN
and JUNEAU readied thousands of soldiers and marines.
LCM8s were lowered into the water.
The LCHs BRUNEI and WEWAK came alongside.
For the 8450 tonne MANOORA and KANIMLBA this was their big test.
Australia had bought the two craft from the US and converted them just
for the role they were about to undertake.
In the early hours troops and Marines boarded the smaller craft and headed
for the beach.
Overhead and off the coast, the invaders had clashed with Canadian ships
and airforce elements.
They too were well equipped and trained.
The landing on Freshwater Beach, although unopposed because of environmental
concerns, provided realistic training for those involved.
It was, however, just one of several important phases of the 26-day exercise.
Beginning on May 3 it saw extensive pre-planning take place.
It was designed to train the staff of the Commander Joint Task Force Headquarters
as well as members of the Headquarters Australian Theatre and the Deployable
Joint Force Headquarters.
(MANOORA and KANIMBLA each have command posts capable of taking the deployable
COMFLOT, CDRE Jim Stapleton was deputy combined task force commander operating
from BLUE RIDGE.
While the landing was under way, 250 nautical miles to sea the giant aircraft
carrier USS KITTY HAWK was launching and receiving her aircraft.
It was their role to protect the sea forces from the air and fulfil another
phase of the total exercise.
Again KITTY HAWK's jets did not have the skies to themselves.
RAAF Hornets and F111s along with US Reserve F 15s, were up to harass
RAAF Orions and US B-52's were flown as part of the "enemy" force.
A number of ships and submarines played aggressor roles.
One of the final phases was an attack on the former US cruiser the USS
The pensioned 6000 tonne warship was towed to Newcastle, stripped of any
environmentally threatening items and then towed to a point 130 nautical
miles off the Queensland coast.
She became a target for bombs dropped by RAAF F111s, missiles from US
warships and shells from RAN vessels.
In all the RAN sent 20 ships with 1800 personnel to the exercise.
The ships included HMA Ships BRISBANE, ADELAIDE, CANBERRA, DARWIN, SUCCESS,
MANOORA, KANIMBLA, WALLER, WEWAK, TARAKAN, BETANO, HUON, HAWKESBURY and
Also in attendance were MSAs BANDICOOT and WALLAROO and the survey vessels
BENALLA, SHEPPARTON and LEEUWIN (which acted as a command platform)
The invading force, named the Blue Force was led by VADM Metzger with
CDRE Stapleton his deputy.
The Orange Force was led by MAJGEN Jim Molan.
On Saturday, May 19, the exercise was visited by the Australian Defence
Minister, Mr Peter Reith and CDF, ADML Chris Barrie.
Accompanied by the Maritime Commander, RADM Geoff Smith, they went aboard