Work begins on $35m chopper facility

A GROUND-BREAKING ceremony to launch a $35 million aviation facility that will play a pivotal support role to the navy’s new MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopter program has been held at the Albatross Aviation Technology Park.

The Maritime Helicopter Support Company (MHSCo), a joint venture between Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, is going to build maintenance and warehouse facilities that will provide Through Life Support (TLS) logistic services for the RAN’s new fleet of 24 Romeo helicopters.

MHSCo president Rod Skotty was joined by Head of the Defence Materiel Organisation’s Helicopter System Rear Admiral Tony Dalton and Shoalhaven City Council Assistant Deputy Mayor Alan Baptist to officially turn the first sod for the new complex, an event that made world news, appearing on The Wall Street Journal website.

Once completed, the two buildings totalling more than 11,400 square metres will house as many as 120 personnel and provide support for the Romeo helicopters for the next 30 years.

“This is an important chapter for the long-term readiness of Australia’s most sophisticated maritime helicopter,” Mr Skotty said.

“Through Sikorsky Helitech we will build a state-of-the-art facility for essential logistics and maintenance through life support to the RAN for their Seahawk fleet.

“These facilities represent a model where we want to take MHSCo into the future. It is important for the Royal Australian Navy, important for the Shoalhaven community, and important for MHSCo.”

The new facilities will be located in Wugan Street, adjacent to the navy’s MH-60R operational squadron facilities being constructed at HMAS Albatross.

The project, which is being constructed by Jones Lang LaSalle, consists of an 8300-square-metre maintenance repair operation building to service the 24 helicopters and a 3100 square metre warehouse. 

The facilities will also house representatives from Brisbane-based Sikorsky Helitech, which specialises in helicopter aftermarket support, Lockheed Martin Australia and General Electric. 

The buildings are set to be completed in early 2015. 

While Albatross personnel will perform day-to-day operational maintenance on the MH-60R fleet, MHSCo’s TLS facilities will be responsible for a higher level of maintenance at periodic intervals.

MHSCo will also carry out logistics and inventory management of spares and repaired parts; house ground support equipment; provide periodic helicopter and component maintenance; install aircraft upgrades and modifications; and conduct a full strip and repaint of aircraft. 

The RAN has received four completed MH-60R aircraft, with aircrew and maintenance teams from 725 Squadron training in Jacksonville, Florida.

The first of the helicopters are expected to be back in Australia by the end of the year.

Mr Skotty paid credit to Shoalhaven City Council for its support and in particular economic development manager Greg Pullen for his vision in establishing the Albatross Aviation Technology Park.

“I would like to thank the council for its co-operation and commitment in supporting the building of the MHSCo support facility by reserving prime airside access land for companies that have been selected to support naval aviation programs,” he said. 

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