- A.N. Other
- Naval Aviation
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Albatross (Shore Establishment), 816 Squadron
- March 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Defence Aid to the Civil Community (DACC) tasking has also been a prominent aspect of the Squadrons activities; involvement in Bushfire Support, Flood Assistance (including this year’s disastrous floods in Queensland and Victoria) as well more agreeable tasks such as delivering the match ball for AFL or NRL Grand Finals, are all examples of missions the Squadron is regularly called upon to conduct.
In order to achieve the wide variety of tasks successfully, the Squadron relies heavily on highly trained and skilled personnel. For Pilots and Aviation Warfare Officers (AvWO’s – formally known as Observers) ab initio training is conducted through the Royal Australian Airforce at RAAF Pearce and East Sale. After initial training Pilot and AvWO’s then convert to “Navy” flying at 723 Squadron (Also located at HMAS Albatross) flying the AS350-BA Squirrel Helicopter. It is here that Aircrewman join the training continuum conducting their basic Aircrewman Course. Once selected for Operational Flying Training, aircrew are posted to 816 Squadron where they then commence conversion onto the S-70B-2.
Pilot training consists of General and Instrument flying, Tactical, Deck Landing and Captaincy Phases. On completion Pilots are a fully qualified S-70B-2 Captain capable of conducting operations day or night in any weather conditions in any location around the world from a ashore or embarked.
AvWO training includes Cockpit Duty, Sensors and Tactics phases concentrating mainly on Anti Surface and Anti Submarine warfare disciplines. Though recently with the introduction of Electronic Support Measures and Forward Looking Infra Red their training has also had to branch out into the Electronic Warfare domain.
Aircrewman or Sensor Operator (Senso) training includes a utility component (Winching and load lifting) followed by a sensors phase concentrating on Radar, Acoustics, Electronic Warfare and Forward Looking Infra Red. Cabin gun utilisation involves proficiency in using the GPMG (7.62 mm General Purpose Machine Gun) and 50 calibre HMG (Heavy Machine Gun).
All aircrew training takes approximately 12 months and is achieved through airborne, simulator and ground training exercises. The management of this training is achieved through 816 Squadrons Training Department which is headed by the Training Officer. The respective courses are designed to be rigorous and comprehensive so no matter what situation is presented, the crew at times acting independently are able to safely achieve the mission before them.
Maintenance Personnel also undertake a similarly lengthy and comprehensive training program. Like their aircrew counterparts’ initial training is conducted at RAAF Wagga, where recruits undergo basic training as either an ATV (Air Technical – Avionics) or ATA (Air technical Airframes). After 18 months of training the recruits graduate with a certificate of completion in ATA or ATV competencies and are posted to TA-AVN (Training Authority – Aviation – or “Tavern” as it is colloquially known) at HMAS Albatross. At TA-AVN the junior sailors are then introduced to Seahawk specific maintenance. On the job training and competency based training objectives are then completed on the Hangar floor at the Squadron itself and after approximately a further 18 months the sailors are then awarded their Certificate IV in Aero Skills (either in Avionics or Mechanical) and are qualified as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME). Overall oversight to maintenance, their training and regulatory compliance is the responsibility of the AEO (Aeronautical Engineering Officer). Once deployed to a Flight at sea the maintenance team has to be self sufficient and able to undertake scheduled and unscheduled maintenance procedures including activities such as engine and blade changes, aircraft configuration changes and calendar and hourly based servicing.
Current generation and future aircraft
The S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter is an Australian specific derivative of the USNs SH-60F Seahawk. Primarily designed for ‘Blue Water’ anti submarine work the aircraft also has had to adapt to other roles. Being able to carry just over 2 tons of fuel internally the helicopter has significant endurance enabling it to remain on station for considerable duration. It can carry up to 30 sonobuoys and two torpedoes. For anti surface warfare missions the Super Searcher radar is used to compile a RMP (Recognised Maritime Picture). The typical crew composition is one pilot, one AvWO and a Senso, though crew makeup can vary according to mission requirements. Launch and recoveries can be made day or night to Air capable Ships in most sea states. For heavy seas the RAST (Recovery Assist Securing and Traversing) system is used to assist the Pilot in landing the aircraft.