RAAF Flight Lieutenant plays important role at sea

Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), ABIS Steven Thomson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Exercise RIMPAC

Flight Lieutenant Paul Atteridge in Flight Control on HMAS Canberra during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. (photo: ABIS Steven Thomson)
Flight Lieutenant Paul Atteridge in Flight Control on HMAS Canberra during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Paul Atteridge called in two of the world’s biggest and fastest rotary wing aircraft when the Navy conducted a world-first trial recently.

Canberra Class Amphibious Ship, HMAS Canberra recently recovered and launched the United States Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft as well as the western world’s largest military helicopter, the CH-53E Super Stallion during flight trials off Hawaii for Exercise RIMPAC 16.

Raised in the town of Bright and a graduate of the Scotts School in Albury, Paul is now a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Air Force where he is embarked as a Joint Battlefield Airspace Controller (JBAC).

He said he is responsible for coordinating the airspace surrounding the ship and up to 60 miles out, an interesting role while deployed to the world’s largest maritime exercise.

“We’re the first point of contact for any aircraft approaching the ship,” he said.

“We use the ship’s radar and communications to ensure the safety of each flight, whether it’s a coalition aircraft or one of our own,” he said.

Paul talks with the aircrew to obtain critical information, such as the number of passengers onboard, the amount of fuel remaining and their intentions on arrival.

In response he provides air traffic control and navigation to the ship.

“We set them up so they can come and land safely,” he said.

“We also provide accurate reporting and communications so they can be sure someone’s looking after their search and rescue requirements.”

The MV-22 Osprey is a multi-mission, tiltrotor aircraft, designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed performance of a turboprop aircraft.

The aircraft has a cruising speed of 446km/h at sea level, a range of more than 1600km and the capacity to carry up to 32 troops or 9000 kilograms of internal cargo.

Unlike the Osprey, the CH-53E Super Stallion is slower but can carry a staggering 13,600kg of internal cargo, an underslung load of up to 14,500kg or 55 troops with centreline seats installed.

Paul, whose grandfather served in the Navy, said the aircraft were impressive.

“It was the first time a United States military aircraft has landed on one of the Navy’s two new Landing Helicopter Docks,” he said.

“Being the first person to talk with them and to get them landing on was very cool."

“I’m pretty sure I can say I’m the only JBAC in the Air Force to get a V-22 to land on a ship!”

The Osprey and Super Stallion trials are part a series of high end war fighting exercises taking place during the biennial Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.

RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise, providing a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.

The exercise is the first major international engagement for the Royal Australian Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), MH-60R Seahawk and MRH-90 helicopters.