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 Post subject: Troop transport intrigues Europeans
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 2:27 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:13 pm
Posts: 1672
Location: South Australia
Troop transport intrigues Europeans
From correspondents in Brussels
January 25, 2006
AN Australian system of employing a commercial catamaran to ferry troops to East Timor has caught the eye of European military planners.

Today European Union governments urged the European Defence Agency (EDA) to examine the system, applied in 1999 to transport troops and equipment from Darwin to restore order after East Timor's bloody vote for independence.

The Europeans suggested high-speed ferries could be used to more rapidly move troops into conflict zones than methods currently deployed.

"There's been a lot of interest in different navies about how that technology might be used," said EDA chief executive Nick Whitney, after a meeting of the EDA's steering board in Brussels.

The 86-metre Jervis Bay catamaran was chartered to the Australian navy for two years and made 107 trips between Darwin and Dili, travelling at around 43 knots - roughly an 11-hour voyage.

During that time, it carried some 20,000 passengers and 430 military vehicles, and moved around 5600 tonnes of equipment and stores.

"What we've got out of today is an agreement from 24 capability directors of the European Union that this is actually an idea worth putting a bit of effort into," said Mr Whitney.

Mr Whitney said the United States had also been investigating using ferries to transport troops within a conflict zone, but EU members wanted to see whether they could effectively move personnel across oceans.

"We're interested to have a look at that and see at what point the technology might enable the transoceanic thing to become a reality," he said.

He said the EDA had been given a licence to "spend a bit of agency resource, talk to the participating member states, gather views and ideas, expand our knowledge base. Is there something there that might in due course translate into some sort of joint endeavour?"

Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1975 with the acquiescence of major powers, including neighbouring Australia, but the brutality of the occupation turned world opinion against Jakarta and led to a vote for independence in 1999.

The vote sparked bloody reprisals by the Indonesian military and allied militia groups who killed hundreds of people before order was restored by an international force led by Australian troops.

East Timor finally became independent in May 2002.

With AAP

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