The Royal Australian Navy’s, MH-60R Seahawk helicopter capability continues to grow with the recent graduation of the first 'Australian-made' aircrew students.
Graduating from the first Advanced Pilot/Aviation Warfare Officer Course was Lieutenant Commander Eugene Cleary and Lieutenants Chris Prescott and Geoff Winter. Petty Officer Aircrewman Colin McCallum and Leading Seaman Aircrewman Stephen McGreal also completed the Advanced Sensor Operator Course.
For Commanding Officer of 725 Squadron, Commander David Frost, completion of the first aircrew courses delivered by the Squadron was a proud and defining milestone for the Seahawk Romeo capability.
“The graduation of our first MH-60R students signifies not only the commitment of the students but also the professionalism, innovation and complete dedication of everyone involved in the entire project,” Commander Frost said.
“From those who support us on the technical, operational, capability and logistic fronts through to those who pass on their aviation skills in the aircraft, this is a team achievement, and one we should all celebrate.”
The commencement of training at New South Wales base, HMAS Albatross, was not without challenges. The Squadron commenced training in the USA which required a complex return to Australia, closely followed by relocation into sophisticated new facilities. At the same time, aircrew were busily preparing training packages alongside maintainers who were building a solid technical base on home soil.
“It’s simple, the key to success is teamwork,” Commander Frost said.
“A complete acceptance and understanding of the change required for new complex systems, followed by a commitment to owning the challenge and exercising innovation at every level are the qualities of team 'Romeo'."
For Petty Officer McCallum, the training was a significant challenge compared to his previous Operational Flying Training.
“The MH-60R is a complex and exciting aircraft,” he said.
“It is a significant leap in technology compared to the 'classic' Seahawk that I operated at 816 Squadron.”
Lieutenant Winter said he was very impressed with the war-fighting credentials of the aircraft.
“The potential MH-60R brings to both the Anti-Surface Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare theatres is a step up,” he said.
“After commencing my career flying dipping sonar Sea Kings in the early 90s, the opportunity to transition into the modern day equivalent has been great.”
Lieutenant Commander Cleary has had significant MH-60R exposure with a previous posting as an instructor to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 with the US Navy.
"The training provided here is at the leading edge of MH-60R aircrew training and the delivery of the courseware and capability of the instructional staff was world class,” he said.
Lieutenant Commander Cleary and PO McCallum will post to 725 Squadron as instructors while Lieutenant Winter and Leading Seaman McGeal will return to 816 Squadron and support the commencement of Romeo operations in December. Lieutenant Prescott will return to the Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit to lead future trials as the capability continues to grow.
725 Squadron is currently conducting training for a further 18 students with more graduations scheduled from December throught to March next year and the next influx of students in January. A number of aircrew and maintainers will move across to 816 Squadron in December with the transfer of the first two flights and two further aircraft in support of growing fleet support operations.