The arrival of the Royal Australian Navy’s first two MH-60R helicopters at Naval Air Station Jacksonville last week was a welcome site for NUSQN 725 personnel.
Earlier in the week, both aircraft were accepted from Lockheed Martin at a ceremony in Owego, New York, where they underwent the final stages of their construction.
On hand to witness the acceptance was Commanding Officer NUSQN 725 and representatives from the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO).
The following day, both aircraft were then flown to Florida using a mixed crew of United States Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) pilots. NUSQN 725’s Training Officer, Lieutenant Commander Peter Talbot and DMO Test Pilot, Lieutenant Commander Josh Carey took in some breathtaking views during the 1000 nautical mile transit.
“It has been a fantastic experience and a privilege to fly one of the RAN's first two Romeos out of the factory door. It has been a challenging year learning about the aircraft and building our knowledge whilst at the same time having to create a Squadron from scratch, but what a great reward,” said LCDR Talbot, reflecting on the moment.
“The MH-60R is a remarkable capability and we're looking forward to increasing our knowledge and experience over the next 12 months before bringing home this fantastic aircraft. It is a rare and exciting opportunity that Josh and I will not soon forget,” he said.
Watching from the hangar, Lieutenant Mark Flowerdew described the moment as the start of the Fleet Air Arms reinvigoration of a capability lost to the RAN in 1995.
“The first aircraft type I operated in was the Sea King, whose dipping sonar capability was well renowned; today’s dipping sonar, fitted to the MH-60R, is significantly more capable,” LEUT Flowerdew said.
The arrival of the first RAN Romeos in Jacksonville has also aroused a great deal of interest from the men and woman of the US Navy’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron-72. Over the last few months, HSM-72 has played a significant role in mentoring RAN Officers and Sailors in preparation for the delivery of the MH-60R and they were beaming with pride as NUSQN 725 set about conducting the necessary post flight checks.
NUSQN 725 will remain in the USA, operating the Romeo, until its return to Nowra in December, 2014, when the squadron will commence training RAN aircrew at a new helicopter training facility, currently under construction at HMAS Albatross.