Capabilities put to immediate use

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Alistair Tomlinson (author), ABIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

The flight deck team of HMAS Tobruk load Australian Aid packages into the ship's embarked MRH90 helicopter, which will delivers the packages to remote parts of Vanuatu, during Operation Pacific Assist 2015. (photo: ABIS Tom Gibson)
The flight deck team of HMAS Tobruk load Australian Aid packages into the ship's embarked MRH90 helicopter, which will delivers the packages to remote parts of Vanuatu, during Operation Pacific Assist 2015.

HMAS Albatross-based 808 Squadron was awarded the qualification of Operational Capability Maritime 1 just in time to deploy for Operation PACIFIC ASSIST 2015.

This recognition allows Navy to independently allocate the MRH-90 multirole helicopter to amphibious ships and undertake a range of previously non-permissible flying operations.

Flight Commander embarked in HMAS Tobruk Lieutenant Commander David Tindall said the importance in achieving the qualification unlocks the potential of the MRH-90.

“We can now perform a greater range of flying operations, like going beyond the visual range of the ship, which is essential to playing a meaningful role in humanitarian operations,” he said. 

Commanding Officer Tobruk Commander Leif Maxfield said having a MRH-90 was indispensable, as there was no faster way to distribute supplies, provide medical help, or access remote communities than by helicopter.

“The reliability and functionality of the MRH-90 can be demonstrated by how it has undertaken up to 16 flights a day since we arrived in Vanuatu,” he said.

“It’s genuinely a quantum leap over any other Navy helicopter and already proving vital to our amphibious capabilities.”

Lieutenant Commander Tindall said like all Australian Defence Force personnel involved in Operation PACIFIC ASSIST 2015, the maintainers and flight crew of the MRH-90 were given little notice they would be departing for Vanuatu. 

“The whole of 808 Squadron had worked hard for years to achieve the milestone,” he said.  

“So when the chance came to put these skills to immediate effect, especially in providing humanitarian relief, we jumped at the opportunity.”