The Exercise Kakadu 2018 multinational fleet in formation off the coast of Darwin.
The Exercise Kakadu 2018 multinational fleet in formation off the coast of Darwin.

Royal Australian Navy Hosts Largest International Exercise in Its History

This year’s Exercise Kakadu is expected to be the largest international maritime engagement activity hosted by the Royal Australian Navy in its history. The depth and history of the exercise were explored during the Sea Power 2022 conference in Sydney this week. Exercise Kakadu has grown significantly since it began in 1993 with the involvement of four navies, 15 ships and submarines, and 2000 personnel. Opening the Kakadu Conference, which was part of the King-Hall Naval History program, session host Director-General Digital Capability, Commodore Andrew Willis, stressed the importance of Defence continues to invest in international relationships.

“Exercise Kakadu was being conceptualized in the early Nineties, when geopolitics and natural disasters presented complex challenges, as they continue to do today. Kakadu was conceptualized in the spirit of constructive diplomacy, with a genuine need for developing naval forces capable of cooperating and responding to our respective national needs,” Commodore Willis said.

“Kakadu has paved the way for us, as a Navy, for our growth, capability, and our partnerships. It enables us to operate at a high level of readiness. The training and knowledge gained from Kakadu provide lessons we can incorporate into our exercises, such as Cobra Gold,” Captain Boonchan said.

United States Navy ship, USS Michael Murphy, information with other multinational ships during Exercise Kakadu 2018. Held biennially, Exercise Kakadu is a joint exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy and supported by the Royal Australian Air Force. In 2018 it included 23 ships, 21 aircraft, a submarine, and more than 3,000 personnel from 27 nations, and delivered a range of activities both ashore in Darwin and at sea. (Photo by Australian Government Department of Defence)

When it began, Exercise Kakadu highlighted a change in the Navy’s focus as it was the first time an exercise sought to develop regional interoperability and cooperation, instead of a posture, in defense of Australia. Through cooperation and partnerships, Exercise Kakadu supports Australia’s mutual security and alliance obligations and interests. Keynote speakers from the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy echoed this sentiment and reflected on their respective country’s involvement across many years of Exercise Kakadu. Deputy Director, Policy and Strategy Division at the Naval Operations Department, Royal Thai Navy Captain Chalermwut Boonchan, said how valuable the exercise was for his nation.

Exercise Kakadu is one of Australia’s premier bilateral and multilateral engagement activities and provides greater and more effective military cooperation in the region. In the past 30 years Australia has seen participation from the following nations; Singapore, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, France (New Caledonia), India, Pakistan, Brunei, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Hong Kong (United Kingdom), Canada, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Fiji, United States of America, United Arab Emirates, Cook Islands, Sri Lanka, Chile, China, and Vanuatu. Exercise Kakadu was described as an exemplar of “commonality of purpose”, which is the theme of the Sea Power 2022 conference.