Aviation warfare training hits new heights

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author), LSIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Albatross, S-70B-2 Seahawk, EC-135T2

Aviation Warfare Training Officer Lieutenant Commander Jeffery Choat, RAN, of the Joint Helicopter School eagerly awaits the school's first trainees at HMAS Albatross. (photo: LSIS Justin Brown)
Aviation Warfare Training Officer Lieutenant Commander Jeffery Choat, RAN, of the Joint Helicopter School eagerly awaits the school's first trainees at HMAS Albatross.

Training at the Australian Defence Force’s new Joint Helicopter School, at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales is set to transform the way Australian military aviators prepare for operational helicopter conversion.

Aviation warfare training officer Lieutenant Commander Jeffery Choat will be in charge of non-pilot aircrew training at the school and said it was a challenge he was relishing.

His students are maritime aviation warfare officers, the mission commanders of Navy sorties who achieve the tactical outcomes of an operation.

Lieutenant Commander Choat has a background with the S70B2 Seahawk as a flight commander on HMAS Toowoomba and he was the chief aviation warfare officer examiner in Navy in charge of instructor training and standards.

He was also an instructor on the KA350 King Air and a flight commander at the School of Air Warfare.

“Students trained on the King Air will graduate as either air combat officers for Air Force or aviation warfare officers for Navy,” he said.

“Trainees will arrive here with about 100 hours of flying with visual flight rules and instrument flight rules qualifications and training for roles including low-level tactical fastjet operations, maritime patrol and response operations and air battle management.

“Our plan is to expand on their knowledge in preparation for Seahawk flying.

“They will also do a conversion to fly from a fixed-wing to a rotary-wing aircraft as they will be basically the co-pilot of the aircraft.

“Students will also have synthetic training on the tactical part task trainer using generic systems such as simulated forward-looking infra-red devices, 360-degree radar and data link systems to develop their mission commander skills in different scenarios.

“They will learn to locate and identify contacts then report back using these systems.”

Lieutenant Commander Choat said all the courses at the school would last about six months.

“Our first aviation warfare course will start in January next year and some students are already flying the King Air,” he said.

“The Navy pilots are completing the advanced flying training course on the Pilatus PC9/A.

“They will have their wings and will begin their rotary wing pilot course at the same time. When they complete the course the new helicopter pilots will progress to operational conversion or, for some Navy pilots, remain here to build up their required minimum flying hours before they can begin to fly the MH60R Seahawk.”

During the aircrewman course, Navy and Army personnel will learn aircrewman duties and how to be a winch and hoist operator.

Navy aircrewmen then complete the generic sensor operator (SENSO) initial training course, which is mostly done on synthetic training devices, to prepare them for the Seahawk course.

Operators are responsible for the operation of the aircraft's sensor equipment, and also winch and hook operations when performing secondary utility roles.

Additional courses for sensor operators include the maritime warfare course at HMAS Watson and the acoustics course with the Australian Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre at HMAS Albatross.

Lieutenant Commander Choat said it was exciting to be at the Joint Helicopter School for its beginning and have an influence on how it was set up.

“The facilities are cutting-edge and there is an overall approach to continuity and progression which was lacking in the past,” he said.

“It’s certainly filling a gap, especially for aviation warfare officers who will be going from flying the King Air to an EC135 [helicopter], which is a contemporary aircraft with modern systems instead of the Squirrel [helicopter, then straight onto the new Seahawk, which is the best maritime helicopter in the world.

“It’s also an innovative approach to be working so closely with the civilian contractors from Boeing and Thales to provide the state-of-the-art training solution.

“About 50 per cent of the staff will be from Boeing as the prime contractor, who are all ex-military with civilian industry experience, and the other half is divided reasonably evenly between Navy and Army personnel.

“This means we will capture the current best practices and in some areas improve on them.”

The current Navy News (29 June) has an eight page liftout on the Helicopter Aircrew Training System.