A milestone for the mighty Squirrel

THEY may be one of the smallest helicopters in the Fleet Air Arm’s arsenal but the Squirrels at 723 Squadron at HMAS Albatross have passed a major milestone.

SMALL BUT TOUGH: The 723 Squadron Squirrel helicopters at HMAS Albatross have celebrated their 30th anniversary.

SMALL BUT TOUGH: The 723 Squadron Squirrel helicopters at HMAS Albatross have celebrated their 30th anniversary.

Earlier this month the aircraft celebrated its 30th anniversary of operation at the naval air station.

The first of six Aerospatiale AS-350B Squirrels arrived at HMAS Albatross from France on May 14, 1984.

Since then the RAN has operated 14 Squirrels, with 723 Squadron undertaking the initial training of all rotary wing aircrew, preparing them for operational flying training in front-line anti-submarine, anti-surface and maritime utility squadrons. 

The Squirrel saw active service in the first Gulf War (1990-91) and East Timor (1999-00).

It later undertook border protection duties. 

In 2013 a Squirrel became the first RAN aircraft embarked on a foreign navy vessel, flying from onboard the Spanish Replenishment Oiler, SPS Cantabria.

The aircraft have also been used for a number of civilian tasks, including fire spotting and numerous search and rescue operations. 

The squadron is also home the Squirrel Pairs Display Team, which is the Fleet Air Arm’s most visible public performance showpiece.

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