THE new $138 million MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopter capability facilities at HMAS Albatross are starting to take shape.
The new facility will be the home of 725 Squadron, which is in the United States training to fly and maintain the new Seahawk Romeos, and 816 Squadron, which flies the current Seahawks.
The project, being undertaken by contractors Lend Lease, includes a training centre and operation squadron facility.
When the project was launched in November last year the construction schedule was described as aggressive – with just over a year to get it ready for the first of 24 new helicopters.
It is the biggest public works project undertaken in the Shoalhaven since the South Coast Correctional Centre was completed at South Nowra.
In the US, the soon to be Nowra-based squadron, has taken delivery of the third and fourth MH-60R Romeo helicopters.
“It’s great to welcome two new aircraft to the RAN family. We can’t wait to introduce them to Jacksonville and later in the year, to the Fleet Air Arm back in Australia,” said 725 Squadron commanding officer Commander David Frost.
Further aviation maintainers and aircrew have also arrived in Jacksonville, bringing the total number of Fleet Air Arm personnel working in the US to 95.
The remaining eight aircrew members are due to arrive over the next few months.
Maintenance technicians continue to undergo training at the Centre of Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU), Naval Air Station Jacksonville, while aircrew are trained by Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 40 (HSM-40), across the river at Naval Station Mayport.
The squadron has also taken delivery of a maintenance training device dubbed the “Bromeo”.
The Bromeo is a complete, functioning aircraft that will be used to train sailors who are undergoing initial trade training at 725 Squadron.
“It will also be used to conduct annual escape training and operational flying training ground familiarisation events,” Commander Frost said.
“Finding opportunities to get hands-on training on in-service aircraft can be challenging due to flying and operational commitments, so having the Bromeo will expedite training and will be cost effective.”
Although it will not return to flying status, the Bromeo will be painted in the RAN colours and be subject to the airworthiness and maintenance requirements the fleet of new MH-60R aircraft are required to meet.
The Bromeo is built from an SH-60B (Bravo) helicopter airframe, similar to those operated by 816 Squadron and was re-manufactured into an MH-60R as a prototype, prior to the final design decision by the US Navy.