HMAS Canberra has been visited by one of the most potent attack helicopters in the United States Marine Corps, the AH-1 SuperCobra.
Landing on the flight deck, together with the UH-1 Huey/Venom medium utility helicopter, both aircraft were ‘hot refuelled’ by Canberra’s flight deck team.
The landing and refuelling of both aircraft types were the first in Royal Australian Navy history and concluded a series of interoperability trials with United States Marine Corps aircraft as part of Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.
Hot refuelling (or fuelling with engines operating) is performed when military operations require a rapid turn around of aircraft.
It is frequently practised in Royal Australian Navy ships at sea, though rarely with such a broad range of coalition aircraft.
Avionics Technician Sergeant Cain Brennan supervised the SuperCobra refuelling and said the trials had been very rewarding.
“We’ve been working closely with the US Marines to prove the new capability of the Landing Helicopter Dock,” he said.
“There’s a great sense of accomplishment in being able to say we’ve done it, and for everyone involved it went safely and smoothly.”
Early on in the exercise Canberra US Marines MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest helicopter in the United States military, landed on the Australian ship.
Both aircraft were hot refuelled in subsequent landings.
Members of the Australian Army’s 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, rehearsed amphibious assault drills in the Osprey and the Governor General of Australia, His Excellency General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC (Ret'd) flew in the Osprey from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to land on Canberra as part of an official visit.
Commander – Flying, Canberra, Lieutenant Commander Adam Smith said the landing of the Cobra and Venom, both skidded aircraft without wheels, was the last piece in the highly successful interoperability trials.
“We landed them on 6 and 4 spots, and refuelled them both, so that really ticked the box for interoperability,” he said.
“With everything that’s come on board from the MV-22, CH-53 and through to today, we’ve had no hiccups at all."
“We’ve managed to hit all aviation goals that we needed to, so we can now go away and say, yes this works and expand that envelope even further.”
RIMPAC 16 is the first major international exercise for Canberra and its embarked MRH-90 helicopters, as well as the MH-60R Seahawk helicopters embarked in frigates HMA Ships Warramunga and Ballarat.