723 Squirrel joins Tobruk for Pacific deployment

Published on LEUT Harrison Ingham (author), CAPT Robert Knight (photographer)

Topic(s): 723 Squadron, HMAS Tobruk (II)

A Squirrel aircraft launches from HMAS Tobruk's aft flight deck during flying stations.
 (photo: CAPT Robert Knight)
A Squirrel aircraft launches from HMAS Tobruk's aft flight deck during flying stations.

An AS350BA Squirrel flight from 723 Squadron recently joined HMAS Tobruk (CMDR Leif Maxfield, RAN) for the ship’s upcoming deployment to Townsville, Cairns and Pacific Islands.

As part of the deployment, Tobruk will take part in Operation SOLANIA, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to maritime surveillance within the Pacific Region, with the embarked Squirrel to undertake surface surveillance and maritime rescue, should it be required.

HMAS Tobruk’s Maritime Logistics Officer, LCDR Christina Ween, conducts duties as Helicopter Control Officer.

HMAS Tobruk’s Maritime Logistics Officer, LCDR Christina Ween, conducts duties as Helicopter Control Officer.

Tobruk has also been using the opportunity to conduct Deck Landing Procedures (DLPs), re-qualify Helicopter Control Officers (HCO) and Flight Deck Teams (FDT), and conduct internal training to keep members of the ship’s company current in aviation.

Tobruk’s Navigating Officer, LCDR Phillip Alley says the aircraft enhances Tobruk’s capability.

“The Squirrel has a proven track-record with ship born activities and provides a valuable asset whilst embarked,” said LCDR Alley.

“I am particularly impressed with the level of training they are providing the bridge team with, during both flying operations and off-watch briefs.”

“The Squirrel crew have also integrated superbly into the ship’s company. They have embraced every aspect of routine ship life with vigour,’ said LCDR Alley.

Upon arriving in Townsville, the Squirrel detached and proceeded to Cairns, whilst Tobruk commenced training in vicinity of Magnetic Island and the Port of Townsville with Warhorse 110 and 211 – two Army Blackhawks from 5 Aviation Regiment. A number of day and night DLPs were conducted with the Blackhawks under the direction of Tobruk’s HCO LCDR Christina Ween.

“We’re conducting a lot of internal training, and its great exposure and valuable training not just for the ship, but for 723 SQN and Army,” said Tobruk’s Flight Deck Captain, Petty Officer Andrew Martin.

While ticking training boxes has been valuable, the opportunity to visit foreign ports is shaping up as a highlight for many of the ship’s company.

“We’re excited about the rest of the deployment and having the chance to visit ports in the South West Pacific. It’s not every day you get to explore Vanuatu and Noumea,” said Sub Lieutenant Katherine Newson.