Fleet Air Arm to wow Australia

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Lauren Rago (author), ABIS Alan Lancaster (photographer)

Topic(s): International Fleet Review, Fleet Air Arm

The International Fleet Review (IFR) livery applied to a AS-350BA Squirrel helicopter for its role during the IFR in October 2013. (photo: ABIS Alan Lancaster)
The International Fleet Review (IFR) livery applied to a AS-350BA Squirrel helicopter for its role during the IFR in October 2013.

The Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) will play a spectacular role in the International Fleet Review (IFR) from 3-11 October 2013, which includes a combined flypast above more than 40 ships for the salute on Sydney Harbour.

More than a dozen Navy helicopters and hundreds of members of the FAA will contribute to marking 100 years since the nation’s first RAN Fleet Entry in 1913.

The FAA will also showcase the way it supports today’s Fleet with the helicopters that have become integral to Navy operations.

Major aviation events within the IFR include a variety of aerial demonstrations and support activities. These are expected to include, helicopter flag flying, tactical mission demonstrations, photographic support, VIP transport and medical evacuation standby.

On Saturday 5 October, the IFR will include a streamed formation flypast and ceremonial salute for Her Excellency the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Hon Ms Quentin Bryce AC, CVO, at the exact same moment that warships on the harbour are making their salute. That evening, IFR will provide a spectacular event to light up Sydney Harbour with fireworks and maritime technology like never before.

Aviation planning for the IFR is being undertaken by a small team of Navy Reservists and Permanent Navy personnel, working within the Headquarters Fleet Air Arm and the IFR Coordination Cell in Sydney.

The team are collectively applying their skills and experience with display flying, operations planning and logistics management, to achieve safe, spectacular and properly coordinated air activities during IFR.

Commander Rick Allen is the IFR Manager within the Headquarters Fleet Air Arm. He is a Reserve Officer who has worked within the FAA since 1992 as a Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer, mostly flying Seahawk helicopters.

CMDR Allen remembers a similar spectacle during Navy’s 75th Anniversary celebrations in 1986.

“I was in my second last year of High School and was only 15 months from joining the Navy as a bright-eyed Midshipman. I remember the ’86 Fleet Review and harbour displays being a strong motivation towards joining the Navy and my personal enthusiasm for the Fleet Air Arm.”

“A special part of the events in October will be the wide variety of participants.”

“Spectators and aircraft enthusiasts are likely to see military helicopters and aeroplanes representing a number of our visiting Navy partners. In addition to the helicopters from each of our commissioned air squadrons, there will also be other Defence aircraft and some wonderful heritage aeroplanes that have a close connection to Navy.”

“It is important to highlight that it won’t just be aircrew who are involved in the IFR. As ever, it will be a cooperative team effort between maintainers, air crew, engineering support personnel and many others who will work to ensure that aviation aspects of IFR are safe, spectacular and well received by the general public. Most people in the community don’t get to see Navy’s ships and helicopters, let alone in the concentration being assembled for IFR,” said CMDR Allen.

“A lot of careful management is required for a complex event like this. Part of that effort will include a graduated build up to the activity through training and trial flying. Our crews don’t get to do things like flag flying or mounting helicopter formations that often, so detailed preparation is essential. Our plans for IFR include a practice and qualification opportunity for the visiting nations who may be participating in the flying schedule,” said CMDR Allen.

The Fleet Air Arm has not been involved in a public event of this scale in more than 25 years.

“It’s not something Navy does every day. We are used to working in small teams so it will be a challenge of scale. Of course, the IFR will pose a fantastic opportunity to showcase Navy and the FAA to the people of Sydney.”

“The FAA will be a strong player in the overall celebration of our nation’s Fleet. I think the highlight will be seeing it all come together, with Squadrons participating in the salute and also cooperating with partner nations in a remarkable and uniquely navy celebration.”

“It will be such a special opportunity for people who were not around in ’86 or ‘88 and who don’t normally get the chance to see our helicopter operations up close.”

“It’s an exciting time and an event that is unlikely to be repeated for many decades, which is part of the reason for the growing excitement within the FAA.”

“Everyone involved in IFR will remember October 2013 for the rest of their career and will take forward memories from a great celebration.”

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130571.

More information on the IFR can be found at http://www.navy.gov.au/ifr