Three weeks of maritime war games in WA

By Melissa Coade

November 8, 2021

Australian and American personnel gather for Exercise Dugong 2021 briefs held in the Submarine Training and Systems Centre on HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.
Australian and American personnel gather for Exercise Dugong 2021 briefs held in the Submarine Training and Systems Centre on HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. (Defence)

A hostile simulation exercise to test the capabilities of teams from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and United States Navy to keep access to the Port of Fremantle and Indian Ocean open has concluded.

Dubbed ‘Exercise Dugong’, the war games tested the mine warfare units of both navies, including their integrated emerging and legacy mine warfare systems, technologies and practices.

Australia’s assistant defence minister, Andrew Hastie, announced on Friday that the exercise had officially wrapped up. He said that keeping critical sea lanes and ports open was important for regional and domestic security.

“Keeping Australia’s maritime environment safe in a dynamic strategic environment is critical,” Hastie said. 

“We live in a region that is at the centre of great power competition, our Indian Ocean approaches are vital sea lanes, and we must be ready to meet our changing strategic circumstances.”

The US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five worked alongside the RAN’s HMA Ships Gascoyne and Yarra, Australian Clearance Diving Teams One and Four, the Maritime Geospatial Unit and specialist mine warfare personnel.

Hastie added that with the emergence of new technologies, it was important for the navy to test new systems under simulated hostile conditions. 

“Navy’s mine warfare and countermeasure practices are evolving to meet both current and emerging threats,” Hastie said. 

“As new weapons and technologies advance, the Royal Australian Navy is working with Industry and coalition partners to test new systems in autonomous and artificial intelligence realms,” he said. 

The government confirmed that all defence personnel who participated in the exercise adhered to state government public health restrictions, including 14 days of quarantine upon arrival.


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