- A.N. Other
- Naval Aviation
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Albatross (Shore Establishment), 816 Squadron
- March 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Being a unique derivative the RAN has had to independently upgrade and modify the aircraft throughout its service life. This has presented some significant issues, particularly with respect to operational and technical airworthiness perspectives have necessitated significant testing and evaluation. To maintain today’s rigorous airworthiness standards and regulatory observance the scale of effort for the S-70B-2 to continue compliance is to say the least, hard work. Logistical support for the aircraft is also becoming limited especially for unique Australian components. The S-70B-2 has served the RAN admirably for over two decades and has flown in excess of 71,000 hours, but for reasons listed above and others not discussed in this article a replacement is needed.
Fortuitously a replacement helicopter has been identified and ordered under Project Air 9000 Phase 8 and will be in service with the Fleet Air Arm by 2014. A “Military off the Shelf” helicopter the USNs MH-60R will be the S-70B-2 replacement. This decision to not go it alone will obviously be beneficial for the RAN, as tapping into the USN and its vast economy of scale will alleviate some of the problems that the S-70B-2 is experiencing. The ‘Romeo’ will certainly be a quantum leap forward for the Fleet Air Arm in terms of high end warfare capability. A state of the art dipping sonar, torpedos and air launched missiles will redefine 816 Squadrons role at sea. CMDR Shane Craig 816 Squadrons current Commanding Officer says “The acquisition of the MH-60R is the first major step in maintaining a credible and potent Anti-Submarine Warfare capability in the Fleet Air Arm over the coming decades. It will be an exciting challenge for 816 Squadron to embark the MH-60R in support of the fleet.”
816 Squadrons future is certainly looking bright with the Squadron set to remain commissioned for the foreseeable future. The Squadron will undertake a major transition over the next decade as the new MH-60R is introduced and the venerable S-70B-2 is retired. The “Fighting Tigers” will continue to roam HMAS Albatross with sharper claws and teeth and will remain at the cutting edge of the Fleet Air Arm.