Navy’s flight trial unit gears up for a busy year

Army’s Tiger ARH will conduct FoCFT in February embarked on HMAS Canberra. Note the LHD’s deck markings painted on the flight lines at 1 Aviation Regiment's, Robertson Barracks, in Darwin. (Paul Sadler)
Army’s Tiger ARH will conduct FoCFT in February embarked on HMAS Canberra. Note the LHD’s deck markings painted on the flight lines at 1 Aviation Regiment’s, Robertson Barracks, in Darwin. (Paul Sadler)

The Royal Australian Navy’s Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU), part of Defence’s aircraft test and evaluation capabilities, is preparing to conduct no fewer than seven first of class flight trials (FoCFT) before September.

In January, the Unit will embark on HMAS Melbourne to start the MH-60R Seahawk Romeo’s FoCFT in the Adelaide class FFG guided missile frigates.

From February to April, the Unit will have Army’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) and MRH 90 onboard the Canberra class LHD amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra, conducting FoCFT before hosting the Romeo which will embark in late February to continue its trials.

“For the Romeos we are expanding on the ship helicopter operating limits they have at the moment and we are looking to provide a lily pad capability for the MRH 90 on the Anzac class,” AMAFTU Officer In Charge Commander David Hutchinson told Navy Daily.

“Mid-year, the MRH 90 will conduct first of class flight trials in the Anzac class and in August we will have the unmanned aerial systems [UAS] on the Adelaide class to conduct vertical take-offs and landing trials.

AMAFTU Officer In Charge Commander David Hutchinson stands in front of a MH-60R Seahawk 'Romeo' at 725 Squadron. (Defence)
AMAFTU Officer In Charge Commander David Hutchinson stands in front of a MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ at 725 Squadron. (Defence)

“Navy [does not have] any [UAS] experience with vertical take-off and landing, so the unmanned aerial systems trials in August will be valuable. We are not walking into it thinking it will be a box-ticking exercise. We have also never taken a Tiger helicopter to sea before.”

Then in September, the AMAFTU will conduct FoCFT for Defence’s Helicopter Aircrew Training System’s (HATS) new EC135 T2+ training helicopters.

In 2016, the Unit completed FoCFT for the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system on HMAS Choules and cleared Army’s CH-47F Chinooks to operate from the Navy’s two LHDs, HMAS Adelaide and Canberra.

Based at Naval Air Station Albatross, Nowra,AMAFTU’s small unit of approximately 25 flight test pilots, engineers and systems specialists ensure Navy’s helicopters are safe to operate at sea, their weapon systems do the job and that those systems’ limits are understood.

“The Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit is highly specialised with over 50 years [of] history and experience,” said Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Chris Smallhorn.

“It is one of the crown jewels of the Fleet Air Arm and a key contributor to the war-fighting effect.”

An Army MRH90 (background) and CH-47F (foreground) onboard HMAS Adelaide, as part of first of class flight trials in August 2016. (Defence)
An Army MRH90 (background) and CH-47F (foreground) onboard HMAS Adelaide, as part of first of class flight trials in August 2016. (Defence)

Comments

  1. Ross Ayton says

    Has policy changed to allow AMAFTU to have markings on a Seahawk but not flights. The flights mark an aircraft to indicate pride in their given airframe and ship. Colours other than black/white/grey were not allowed. A bit of hypocrisy here I think given the colours on the Romeo.

  2. Mick181 says

    And you can probably throw in first of class flight trials of the MH-60Rs on the Hobart first few months next year.

  3. Paul says

    I will be watching with interest for articles and reports on the UAS VTOL trials in August. Navy must have selected a platform by now.

  4. MikeofPerth says

    Would a V-22 Osprey be able to perform short rolling takeoffs using the ski jump on the Canberra class LHDs to enable higher takeoff weights? I know the Osprey does short rolling takeoffs off land based runways for this reason but I’m not sure it does this off ships and pretty sure it has never been tried on a ski jump.

    I think the RAN will be keeping a close eye on what the RN will be doing in future with the QE class carriers, in regards to tiltrotors/high speed rotor craft and deck launched UAVs.

  5. JonC says

    MikeofPerth
    The video of the Osprey onboard the Canberra in Hawaii last year from memory wouldn’t have had much if any clearance between the starboard rotor and the Ship’s island if it had come further forward that the aft landing spot

  6. James says

    Ross Ayton
    Flights are allowed to have a markings, and not just in black, white, grey etc. If you enlarge that pic above, it looks like a bright orange sticker placed over another marking.

  7. says

    Great news for our helo family.It will give our Navy and Army a great new capability.By the way,6x F -22 raptors for Avalon and a great array of helos coming along with an Apache flying.Expect 2 F-35s as well.JohnNewman will be loving this.

  8. Raymond says

    Paul, wrong.

    Four F-22’s with one taking part in the flying display, as per the official Australian International Airshow Facebook page.

    Where is the official F-35 announcement?