HMAS Parramatta’s Aviation Odyssey - Putting the 'H' into FFH

Published on LCDR Alaric O'Neill (author), ABIS Chantell Bianchi (photographer)

816 Squadron Sea Hawk during a helicopter in flight refuelling with HMAS Parramatta while at sea. (photo: ABIS Chantell Bianchi)
816 Squadron Sea Hawk during a helicopter in flight refuelling with HMAS Parramatta while at sea.

Taipans, Budgies, Pumas, Larks, Seahawks and Squirrels may sound like they belong in a menagerie, but are in fact types of combat and surveillance helicopters that call HMAS Parramatta home when at sea.

Embarked aviation operations are a key element of naval operations and a capability inherent to Navy's Anzac class frigates including Parramatta, the fifth of eight frigate helicopters (FFH 154).

Embarking in FFH 154 proved a valuable experience for members of Navy's Fleet Air Arm when they conducted recent maritime surveillance operations in support of the G20 in Brisbane and further afield within the Pacific region.

Parramatta’s Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander David O’Toole, said helicopter crews often had to embark at short notice.

"My team had 48 hours notice to join Parramatta when the ship was assigned to conduct maritime surveillance off Australia's northern approaches. The seamless integration process and level of aviation competencies inherent to Parramatta, was of the highest quality and sets us up well for an Operation MANITOU deployment in 2015," he said.

Operation MANITOU is the Australian Government's contribution to the international effort to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.
 
Parramatta’s flight deck team has been integral in extending the hand of interoperability and keen to support the diverse range of aircraft. Parramatta's flight deck has echoed recently to the sounds of a MRH-90 from 808 Squadron conducting the first vertical replishment with an Anzac class frigates near Newcastle; French Navy Alouette III and French Air Force Puma helicopters conducting cross deck operations off New Caledonia and supporting deck landing qualification training with a Royal Thai Navy Seahawk.

HMAS Parramatta sails towards New Caledonia while a French Aloutte III helicopter flies overhead, during Operation Solania.

HMAS Parramatta sails towards New Caledonia while a French Aloutte III helicopter flies overhead, during Operation Solania.


"Flights working up to embark in the guided missile frigates HMA Ships Newcastle, Melbourne, Darwin and Navy's replenishment oiler HMAS Success have all taken their turn in Parramatta to practise the difficult art of landings and recovery assist operations, both by day and by night," Lieutenant Commander O'Toole said.

"The training available included ensuring that the Landing System Officers of these flights were able to practice their delicate manoeuvrings of the aircraft on recovery," said Lieutenant Commander O'Toole.

The aviation rate of effort has generated positive results for Parramatta’s embedded team, with three Helicopter Control Officers and a number of Flight Deck Marshallers achieving higher competency gradings.

HMAS Parramatta's ships aviation team on the flight deck, while at sea. (From the back L-R) HMAS Parramatta Maritime Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Commander Aleric Oneill, Assistant Maritime Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Joel Marrison, Petty Officer Maritime Logistics Personnel, Jay Stevenson, Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Steward Stacey Licence, Deputy Maritime Logistics Officer, Michael Dunstan, Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Personnel, Lisa Thompson, Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Brent Rochester, Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Chef, Marcus Clark, Able Seaman

HMAS Parramatta's ships aviation team on the flight deck, while at sea. (From the back L-R) HMAS Parramatta Maritime Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Commander Aleric Oneill, Assistant Maritime Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Joel Marrison, Petty Officer Maritime Logistics Personnel, Jay Stevenson, Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Steward Stacey Licence, Deputy Maritime Logistics Officer, Michael Dunstan, Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Personnel, Lisa Thompson, Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Brent Rochester, Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Chef, Marcus Clark, Able Seaman


"The hard work and dedication of Parramatta’s Flight Deck Team and Marine Technicians has ensured that Parramatta has been able to provide the Fleet Air Arm with a ‘Green Deck’ when required.

"With the positive attitude of Parramatta’s Aviation team, you can be sure that we will continue to be able to 'Fly Navy', " he said.