A 725SQN MH-60R ‘Romeo’ helicopter has fired a Hellfire missile, the first time a RAN aircraft has fired a guided missile since the demise of the Fleet Air Arm’s fixed wing flying in the early 1980s.
The missile was fired on July 25 by one of two 725SQN MH-60Rs currently deployed to the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center – AUTEC – on Andros Island, Bahamas. The successful Hellfire launch comes after the first successful torpedo launch from AUTEC earlier in the month.
The Hellfire firing and torpedo launch are part of a two-week deployment to AUTEC for four 725SQN crews that had completed the US Navy’s Helicopter Advanced Readiness Program (or HARP), a two-week ground school and simulator course covering aircraft employment, sensor utilisation, surface and subsurface weapon employment and applied tactics intended to consolidate ASW and ASuW skills before crews deploy to sea.
“We put them through HARP to not only see where they are at with respect to their systems knowledge and their weapons employment knowledge, but to also get their experience levels up quickly to be able to be in a position to go back to Australia to teach those skills in an Australian training system,” 725SQN executive officer LCDR Todd Glynn told Australian Aviation.
“The deployment to AUTEC allows the guys and girls to finish off that training, drop and launch all their weapons. They drop torpedoes, they launch Hellfires, they employ the heavy machine gun, [they practise] defensive manoeuvring with flares, and using the missile approach warning system and employing that in their day-to-day business.”
Twenty-four MH-60Rs are being acquired for the RAN under the $3.2 billion AIR 8000 Phase 8 project. 725SQN has so far taken delivery of four Romeos and has been training on the aircraft alongside US Navy Romeo units at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, since January, and is due to return to Australia by the end of the year. 725SQN (formally known as NUSQN 725 until it is commissioned) will be the MH-60R training squadron, while 816SQN, which currently operates the S-70B ‘Bravo’ Seahawk, will be the operational Romeo squadron.
A full profile on 725SQN’s transition to the Romeo is due to feature in the September issue of Australian Aviation.