Scouring the high seas from the air for signs of pirate activity would seem like a dream to most adventurers.
For the Navy Seahawk helicopter crew embarked in HMAS Success, fantasy became reality when operating in support of Operation OCEAN SHIELD, a NATO counter-piracy operation around the Horn of Africa in early April.
The Seahawk crew and their helicopter 'Odin' have been deployed to the Middle East since November 2014 as part of Operation MANITOU.
Seahawk pilot Lieutenant Alister Auld has been operating Odin from Success for almost a year and said the NATO operation combined with broader Operation MANITOU duties had been career highlight.
“We are glad to assist in ensuring the security of international shipping in the region.
"It allows us to put the capability of our aircraft to great use,” Lieutenant Auld said.
“Seahawk helicopters have been operating within the Royal Australian Navy for about 25 years but Odin is the first Australian Seahawk to have been assigned to NATO operations.”
The ship launched daily surface search sorties looking for any suspicious activity and reporting all gathered information back to NATO through Success.
“The Seahawk is equipped with multiple sensors to detect vessels, including a modern electro-optic camera which allows the aircraft to monitor vessels from great distances without being detected.”
He said the cameras allow day and night monitoring of suspicious activity from ranges outside normal sight range.
The Seahawk can also be fitted with a variety of weapon systems. For NATO missions the GAU21 heavy machine gun is fitted to the aircraft, which can be used to provide security to vessels, and its presence is effective in deterring pirate activity.
Success’s assignment to Operation OCEAN SHIELD was completed 5April 2015 before departing for Lemnos as part of Anzac Day commemorations.
The ship is completing her mission for Operation MANITOU before returning home mid-year after more than six months away from her home port of Garden Island, Sydney.