816 Squadron enhances RFS air attack capability

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Helen Ward (author), ABIS Shane Cameron (photographer)

Topic(s): 816 Squadron, Bushfires

A row of Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm aircraft on standby at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, Newcastle, as part of the firefighting efforts in New South Wales. (photo: ABIS Leo Baumgartner)
A row of Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm aircraft on standby at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, Newcastle, as part of the firefighting efforts in New South Wales.

The Royal Australian Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopters’ superior Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) cameras and sensors have been working throughout the nights to support firefighting efforts across New South Wales.

Each night, soon after dusk, the aircrew are joined by RFS specialists flying over fire grounds to assess and map current fire movements.

The two aircraft have been flying from 7pm each night until 5am the next morning.

RFS Air Attack Supervisors Mr Peter Sergeant from Cameron Park Brigade, near Newcastle and Mr Jason Conn from Orana District, near Dubbo recently joined 816 Squadron aircrew for night flying operations.

“We coordinate aircraft movements over the fire ground in consultation with the ground crews,” Mr Sergeant said.

“The Defence technology allows us to observe the fire at night and map the fire spread, a capability not normally available to RFS.

The MH-60R, affectionately known as the Romeo, is the Navy’s next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter but readily adapts to support a variety of missions including Search and Rescue, Utility and Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief operations.

A Royal Australian Navy Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopter on the flight line at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, Newcastle, as the part of the firefighting efforts in New South Wales.

A Royal Australian Navy Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopter on the flight line at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, Newcastle, as the part of the firefighting efforts in New South Wales.

816 Squadron Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Commander Tim Craig explains how the squadron assets are operating in conjunction with RFS specialists to contribute to the wider mission.

“We have multiple aircrews present, along with a maintenance team who are working to provide two aircraft available for fire spotting throughout the night,” Lieutenant Commander Craig said.

“Flying at night allows us to provide up to date information on the state and position of fires to RFS HQ, which permits them to optimise the direction of their resources while fighting these fires during the day.

“This availability is providing an essential platform the RFS specialists.

“Being able to contribute in a small way to the firefighting efforts in Northern NSW is a rewarding experience, particularly as we have been able to talk to RFS volunteers who are fighting fires while their own homes and communities are at risk.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is working with Emergency Management Australia to support the firefighting efforts in New South Wales and Queensland.

Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20192970.

Visit the Defence News website for the latest information on Australian Defence Force support for the firefighting effort against the New South Wales and Queensland bushfires.

An aircrewman from 816SQN (right) conducts a preflight safety brief with a Rural Fire Service volunteer before boarding an MH-60 Seahawk Helicopter.

An aircrewman from 816SQN (right) conducts a preflight safety brief with a Rural Fire Service volunteer before boarding an MH-60 Seahawk Helicopter.