Eyes like a hawk on operations

Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, S-70B-2 Seahawk, HMAS Melbourne (F05)

Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Aircrewman Dean Kinna prepares for a mission in the Arabian Sea as a sensor operator for the Sea Hawk helicopter aboard HMAS Melbourne.  HMAS Melbourne is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation MANITOU. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
Royal Australian Navy sailor Leading Seaman Aircrewman Dean Kinna prepares for a mission in the Arabian Sea as a sensor operator for the Sea Hawk helicopter aboard HMAS Melbourne. HMAS Melbourne is patrolling in the Middle East region as part of Operation MANITOU.

It’s the eyes in the sky that give HMAS Melbourne its long-range advantage in the war against drugs.

Leading Seaman Aircrewman Dean Kinna is a sensor operator for the Seahawk S-70B-2 helicopter onboard Melbourne, which is patrolling Middle East waters as part of Operation MANITOU.

Leading Seaman Kinna said he had worked as a sensor operator on the Seahawk for the past two years to prepare for his first deployment.

“My normal primary role is anti-submarine warfare, though while deployed on Operation MANITOU it is to provide a surface-search capability,” he said.

“In the back of the Seahawk I operate the radar, the forward looking infrared camera and the Wescam high-magnification imaging system as well as our electronic surveillance systems.

“Our main task is to locate suspicious vessels or conduct targeted searches for contacts of interest.”

Leading Seaman Kinna joined Navy in 2007 and said he spent five years as an electronics technician before transferring to aircrew.

“My grandfather was my inspiration for joining the Navy,” he said.

“He served during the Second World War and he was always telling me fantastic stories about his time as a sailor and how much he enjoyed his life at sea.

“The people we meet is the best part of Navy, but I love the travel and the lifestyle.

“How many jobs can you do where you get to keep fit and go flying in a helicopter every day?”

The Seahawk crews can fly sorties of up to three hours twice-a-day to find a suspect boat.

Leading Seaman Kinna said the Seahawk was the eyes of the ship and gave the Principal Warfare Officers in the operations room a first-hand view of what was happening.

“They heavily rely on the sensor operators to make decisions on behalf of the ship,” he said.

Melbourne has a tight-knit crew - I am proud of the work we are doing for Operation MANITOU he successful results we have achieved so far.

Leading Seaman Kinna is engaged to Jessica, his partner of 10 years, and said they had adapted to his extended times away from home.

“When I can tell her what Melbourne has been doing as part of Australia's contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces she is very proud of us and our work in stopping the drug trade,” he said.

“I miss her, but my hot tip for young players is to communicate with hand-written letters, rather than just using e-mail or texting with Wi-Fi,” he said.

“It just makes it more personal.”