The crew of HMAS Hobart have honed their skills, having recently completed training to land a Seahawk on a warship – at night.
During the training, the crew wore night vision goggles in a pitch-black environment with no moon, high winds and a ship that rocked and rolled with the waves.
“It was a big challenge,” said Navy pilot Lieutenant Rhiannon Thompson.
“It’s easy to see why it’s so important for pilots to maintain and refine these fundamental skills.”
Alongside Lieutenant Thompson in the helicopter’s cockpit was Second Lieutenant Alexander McLauchlan, Air Warfare Officer.
Second Lieutenant McLauchlan is generally responsible for mission command for above and below surface warfare, making the helicopter exercise a significant change of pace. However, he acknowledged that the co-pilot’s duties were just as important.
“It’s gratifying when you can do it,” Second Lieutenant McLauchlan said.
“I have to oversee the mission and make sure we accomplish what we need to do, be it detecting and deterring a submarine or a surface ship.”
Together, Lieutenant Thompson and Second Lieutenant McLauchlan used the ship’s instruments and their own judgment to calculate the required altitude, speed, sink rate, and heading.
“You have to physically scan all of this stuff with your eyes very quickly to get that information into your head to digest it and then translate it into your hands and feet to move the chopper,” Lieutenant Thompson said.
On the warship itself, the aeronautical engineer, the lead seaman Julijan Pavin, instructed the helicopter where to land. At that time he was training to be a flight deck marshal.
“It’s a good feeling when the plane comes ashore because you’re right in the middle of it,” said Lead Seaman Pavin.
It comes after the US State Department last month gave the green light to RAN, which placed a second order for 12 MH-60R Seahawk/Romeo helicopters in a deal valued at over $2.5 billion . The new aircraft will build on the 24 aircraft acquired between 2013 and 2016 and would bring the total size of the fleet to 36.
The federal government is also considering purchasing 40 Black Hawks to replace its ailing fleet of 47 Taipans.
However, the deal for the Blackhawks is still unconfirmed, and incoming Secretary of Defense Richard Marles argues the previous federal government’s pledge was “pretty hazy.”
“A process is underway that evaluates this capability in terms of what we have now and what we will need in the future. I will not anticipate that now,” he said, referring to the forthcoming review of the new federal government’s defense strategy.
Last year, the former Morrison government even went so far as to send a letter of formal notice to the United States allowing Australia to buy UH-60M Black Hawks for AU$2.79 billion.