Almost 200 Australian sailors are bracing for confrontation with Iranian vessels as their warship sets sail today for a maritime security mission in one of the world’s most treacherous waterways, Strait of Hormuz.
There the ANZAC-class frigate will join an American-led coalition protecting oil supplies leaving the crucial trading passage, against a backdrop of escalating military tensions between the United States and Iran.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Toowoomba and its 190 sailors would support Australia’s safe and open access to the region, and reaffirm the country’s commitment to freedom of navigation.
“This highly capable vessel will focus on promoting maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East by supporting counter-terrorism, preventing piracy, and freedom of navigation,” she said.
The deployment is part of Operation Manitou, the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to promote maritime security and stability in the Middle East.
Navy Chief Vice Admiral Michael Noonan said HMAS Toowoomba was ready for its Persian Gulf mission following 12 months of preparation.
“Commander Mitchell Livingstone and his crew have worked tirelessly to prepare for this deployment, and will form an integral part of the multi-national Combined Maritime Force and International Maritime Security Construct,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.
In 2018, Vice Admiral Noonan suggested Australia’s 30 years of continuous maritime operations in the Middle East could soon wind down as concerns grew over China’s rapid rise closer to home.
HMAS Toowoomba is scheduled to arrive in the Middle East within a fortnight, before returning to Australia in July.
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