“Today, is very much a history making day,” the Commander of the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro, told guests at a sod-turning ceremony to officially mark the commencement of construction of the MH-60R (Seahawk Romeo) Helicopter Capability facilities at HMAS Albatross yesterday.
The commencement of work is the culmination of three years of detailed planning by the Department of Defence to support the training of MH-60R crew and maintenance staff and to support the operations and maintenance of MH-60R Seahawk Romeo aircraft.
Defence will invest $189 million in capital costs into the project at various locations across Australia with $138 million in capital costs being invested at HMAS Albatross.
While the ceremony was very much about the future of Australian naval aviation, Commodore Vince Di Pietro also took the opportunity to reflect on the past.
“This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RAN’s first fleet arrival in Sydney. Naval aviation has been an important part of that history at every stage. Aircraft have been, and will continue to be a quintessential extension of the fleet and its ships’ weapons systems. Our mission is to fight and win at sea”.
“This year is also the 65th anniversary of the commissioning of HMAS Albatross. The airfield has been here since the outbreak of World War 2 and has farewelled its people to Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, the Solomon Islands to Afghanistan.
It has also played a vital role in humanitarian relief - from the first aircraft to arrive in Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, to Aceh, to bushfire relief efforts, through to today where we have an aircraft in HMAS Tobruk on its way to contribute to Operations PHILIPPINES ASSIST.”
Commodore Di Pietro said the sod turning signified not only the commencement of construction but also an exciting new phase for the Fleet Air Arm.
“The ground we are about to disturb with silver shovel will have a training centre and operational squadron facility the likes of which does not exist elsewhere in the Australian Defence Force.
“The people for which this facility will be their operational home will span the full spectrum of skills and specialisations our Navy will employ.
“Importantly, there will be many who will walk these corridors and hangars and hard standings whose parents have not yet met.
“The MH-60R Seahawk helicopter they will fly and service is the most capable naval combat helicopter in the world. The Australian people and its government are acquiring 24 of these machines which represent the largest re-capitalisation of the Fleet Air Arm and all of that will live right here, where this ceremony is taking place today”.
In conclusion, Commodore Di Pietro said “Welcome to our latest home ‘reno’. It is very special. It is essential for our future and ongoing security at home and abroad. It is yours, as tax payers, and we look forward to watching it grow, to receive it, set it to work and to deliver”.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20132301.