The Royal Australian Navy helicopter squadron New Squadron 725 (NUSQN 725) has sent another nine Hellfire Missiles off the rails of the MH-60R Seahawk Romeo Maritime Combat Helicopter during a major missile firing exercise in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Australians took part in Exercise Grey Fox, the biggest missile firing exercise ever undertaken by the United States Navy’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Atlantic (HSMWA).
The Strike Wing is responsible for seven United States Navy MH-60R helicopter squadrons and is also currently supporting NUSQN 725 with its mission to introduce the Romeo capability into the Royal Australian Navy.
Exercise Grey Fox provided towed and static targets to support strike coordination and delivery of 29 missiles by a number of squadrons. The exercise was initially planned to run for the entire week, but Florida's weather only allowed for a few days of firing at the end of the exercise schedule. On the last two days, the summer weather finally returned, allowing NUSQN 725 to live up to its motto of ‘Be Aggressive’ by delivering the AQM-114 Hellfire Missiles in quick succession.
Commanding Officer of NUSQN 725, Commander David Frost, said he was proud of his team.
“They remained flexible throughout the week and when given the green light, they certainly stepped up; loading and firing to get nine hellfires off, on time and on target,” Commander Frost said.
“This achievement comes on the heels of our success at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre and it’s incredible to see such progress and system maturity in the space of only eight months,” he added.
To meet the challenge, NUSQN 725 employed section tactics (one formation of two aircraft) in three waves to deliver nine missiles, the most missiles of any squadron across the Strike Wing.
Maintainers and Aircrew, new to the MH-60R variant, remained calm and professional, with the results providing a very high level of confidence in the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm’s ability to deliver this new maritime combat capability.
Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro has been closely watching the progress of the NUSQN 725 team in Florida, receiving regular updates.
“This is another first for a whole new capability for the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.
“We should always bear in mind that our participation in Exercise Grey Fox took place within the first year of flying our new aircraft, so having achieved such amazingly good results is a great testimony to the many involved - the project team, the resident support team, industry, the squadron and its maintenance personnel and aircrew", Commodore Di Pietro said.
“It is also a testament to the United States Navy, which has afforded us the necessary support to do as much as we possibly can, while our people have face-to-face access to the valuable mentoring of the capability’s parent Navy.
“Congratulations and well done to all.”
MH-60R Project Director, Captain Peter Ashworth said the progress was an outstanding achievement.
“To have matured the Royal Australian Navy’s MH-60R capability to an advanced operational standard, so quickly, reflects on the years of preparatory work by the squadron, the Capability Development Group, the DMO project office, the Navy Aviation Systems Program Office (NASPO) and the broader Fleet Air Arm.”
NUSQN 725 will now turn its attention to sub-surface warfare, with further participation in local exercises, and will also progress plans to return to HMAS Albatross by December.