Two MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters and their teams from HMAS Albatross have shown they can match it with the best in the world.
The two helos, and 30 personnel from the local air station have returned from a high-end warfare exercise off the coast of Scotland.
Exercise Joint Warrior 2018 has seen the HMAS Albatross’ 816 Squadron crews join one of the world’s largest and most challenging anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercises.
The NATO-run activity, involved 11 nations, including the UK, US, Canada, France, Norway, Germany and Spain.
Commanding officer 816 Squadron, Commander Anthony Savage said he couldn't be prouder of the helicopters and crews’ efforts during the two-week operation.
“They were simply outstanding,” he said.
Our crews proved they are up there with the best in the world.Commanding officer 816 Squadron, Commander Anthony Savage.
“We went over there to test ourselves against some of the best in the world and showed our machines, tactics and support systems can mix it with anyone and compete in that environment.”
The exercise pitted the local helicopters against three submarines, two conventional and one nuclear, as the main focus, along with more than 30 surface assets and multiple ASW helicopters and Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
“We flew out of a town called Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland,” CMDR Savage said.
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“We operated as a shore based combat helicopter force alongside the Royal Navy’s 820 Squadron who fly Merlin Mark II helicopters.
“Our crews, alongside the Merlins, provided support to various groups, playing an important role in the high end complex anti-submarine warfare exercise.
“It was a rare opportunity to combine and work with these resources and assets. Something we definitely don’t get to do in Australia.
“And our crews were up there with the best.
Ultimately we are like sportsmen, if you want to be the best you have to practise against the best and continue to hone your skills by doing high end activities and this was certainly that.Commanding officer 816 Squadron, Commander Anthony Savage.
“Ultimately we are like sportsmen, if you want to be the best you have to practise against the best and continue to hone your skills by doing high end activities and this was certainly that.
“It is another tick in the box for the Romeo. It gives us confidence in this amazing machine and the fact we are training people to the right standard and right attitude from the Fleet Air Arm to mix it with the best in the world.”
He said one of the most pleasing aspects of the month-long deployment was the fact Romeos never missed a sortie.
“We were flying up to 10 hours a day during the exercise and to not miss one sortie was an outstanding effort and great reflection on the squadron as a whole,” he said.
“We faced different and challenging weather conditions, and the fact during the whole process we didn’t miss a beat is a testament to the Romeo platform and all the personnel who operate and maintain the aircraft and the support systems available.
“I could not be prouder of their efforts.
“Another pleasing aspect was the way the aircraft and crews seamlessly integrated with the Royal Navy units, demonstrating the close ties between the two nations.”
We were flying up to 10 hours a day during the exercise and did not miss one sortie which was an outstanding effort and great reflection on the squadron as a whole.Commanding officer 816 Squadron, Commander Anthony Savage.
Working alongside the Merlins as an operating pair, CMDR Savage said the aircraft “complemented each other” and “presented further training opportunities for the Australians”.
He said the deployment was very much a joint activity as the RAN relied on its Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) “cousins” to provide transfer in their C-17s.
“The way the planning worked the teams circumnavigated the globe from west to east by time they got back,” he said.
It caps what has been a busy and successful time for the local squadron, with the Romeo “Nemesis” and its crew tasting considerable success in the Middle East onboard HMAS Warramunga, which recently secured its 11th seizure of illegal drugs worth more than $1.56 billion.
“That crew is doing some amazing work, but we have crews all over the world from 816 Squadron operating and I’m proud of all the work they do,” he said.
Romeos in action all over the world
Meanwhile a Romeo helicopter from 816 Squadron has also been part of surface warfare exercises during a South East Asia Deployment.
HMA Ships Anzac, Toowoomba and Success conducted the South East Asia Deployment for approximately three months, visiting a number of ports to build partner capacity and develop interoperability in the South East Asian region.
The ships also participated in Exercise Bersama Shield and the multilateral naval Exercise Komodo.