HMAS Newcastle is the first Adelaide Class Frigate and the second Royal Australian Navy ship to be fitted with new equipment specifically designed to interface with the night vision equipment worn by crews of Navy helicopters.
The Aeronautical and General Instruments Visual Landing Aid equipment was fitted during Newcastle’s recent Docking Selected Refit Availability at Garden Island, Sydney.
The new externally fitted equipment includes a Pilot Information Display, Advanced Stabilised Glide Slope Indicator, modified Stabilised Horizon Reference Bar lighting, Obstruction lights and Helicopter In-flight Refuelling lights. The new internal equipment consists of an Operator Control Device to provide the interface between the Helicopter Control Officers and external equipment, as well as the remote panels the operations room, bridge and RAST (Recovery Assist Secure Transverse) control room.
Newcastle's Flight Control Officer, Lieutenant Commander Chris Mitchell said its is a great piece of kit.
"It will provide all users in key positions with an indication of the deck status and control of the wave-off lights, in the event that approval to land is revoked due to a safety or operational requirement.
"Current night flying operations require aircrew to ‘de-goggle’ prior to recovery due to the type of lighting and visual landing aids ships currently have.
"It is envisaged that the enhanced capability will enable Navy pilots to conduct night launch, recovery and transfer operations whilst utilising night vision goggles.
"The landing phase during helicopter operations is often the most challenging element of night flying and the having the ability to remain ‘on goggles’ will ultimately increase safety for all involved in embarked aviation operations," Lieutenant Commander Mitchell said.
Members of the ship’s company including Helicopter Control Officers, Landing Safety Officers, Flight Deck Marshallers, Flight Deck Team and a number of Marine Engineering maintenance personnel completed the two day Guided Missile Frigate Visual Landing Aids Operator and Maintainer Training course to become proficient in the use and maintenance of the new equipment.
The training was delivered by Mr Madoc Williams, Technical Support Supervisor of Naval Aviation Systems for AGI who flew out from London to specifically delivery the training.
“The equipment is very intuitive and easy to operate and maintain,” Mr Williams said.
Members of 816 Squadron, Aviation Maintenance and Flight Test Unit, Fleet Aviation and Fleet Engineering Division also completed the training.
The Aviation Maintenance and Flight Test Unit will conduct flight trials with the new equipment in June concurrent with Newcastle completing an Aviation Sea Safety Assessment. Following the trials, there will also be an opportunity for ship’s company and the embarked Flight to consolidate training and increase systems knowledge of this new equipment during the Sea Qualification Period and Work-up Period over the next two months.