Hawks and eagles fly together

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Natalie Staples (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, MH-60R Seahawk, S-70B-2 Seahawk, HMAS Newcastle (F06), HMAS Stuart (F153), Drug interdiction, Counter-piracy, Counter-terrorism, Deployment

Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander Ian Homes, RAN, in the port hanger of HMAS Newcastle. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander Ian Homes, RAN, in the port hanger of HMAS Newcastle.

En route to the Middle East as part of the latest Royal Australian Navy crew to deploy for Operation MANITOU is one officer who feels very at home on his hometown’s namesake ship.

Leading the aviation department onboard HMAS Newcastle, is Lieutenant Commander Ian Holmes, who grew up in Cardiff and Wallsend in the Newcastle region of New South Wales.

The Aviation Warfare Officer is part of the ship’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopter flight.

“As a crew member in that helicopter I am responsible for the employment of the aircraft on missions including weapons, tactics, communications and sensors,” Lieutenant Commander Holmes said.

“As the eyes of the ship most of our operational missions will relate to area surveillance. This is aimed at countering terrorism and related activities like smuggling of weapons or narcotics as well as countering piracy and other activities on the high seas, which undermine maritime security.”

Lieutenant Commander Holmes is also in charge of Newcastle’s Air Department and manages a staff of 25.

“As Flight Commander I have overall responsibility for the people from both 816 Squadron and the Navy Unmanned Aerial Systems Unit.”

This will be the first time that an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and Scan Eagle will be teamed on an Australian warship, and he said he was looking forward to both a challenging and rewarding deployment.

“I’ve flown Seahawks my entire career and the Romeo is streets ahead of the previous model. It’s a great capability.”

After 17 years in the Navy, this is not the aviator’s first time to the region.

“I’ve deployed to the Middle East twice, once on Operation CATALYST to Iraq in 2008 and Operation SLIPPER in 2011,” Lieutenant Commander Holmes said.

“In 2011 I was part of HMAS Stuart’s ship’s company, during the height of piracy activity. During the deploymentwe were involved in a number of piracy interdictions, which included rescuing the crew of a pirated dhow.

“It was an interesting experience. You don’t hope to be involved in missions that place you and the crew at risk, but you do go over there to do a job and so you hope while you are there that you can be useful,” he said.

The warship will return from duties before Christmas and Lieutenant Commander Holmes said he is looking forward to spending some quality time with his family.

“Being posted to a warship, preparing for and deploying on an operation is a significant personal effort. My wife and I are looking forward to taking a well deserved family holiday on my return.”