An Army CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopter has been embarked aboard the Navy’s landing ship HMAS Choules for the first time.
The recently completed ‘first of class flight trials’ aboard the Choules, held in the Coral Sea off the coast Queensland, were to define ‘Ship Helicopter Operating Limits’ so that the CH-47F can operate from the vessel in an operational environment.
The flight trials were conducted by the Army’s 5 Aviation Regiment and the Navy’s and Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) and involved more than 206 launches and 66 flight hours, Navy Daily has reported.
The flights were conducted in a range of conditions influenced by wind, sea and swell.
“The combined Navy and Army flight test team has brought together the expertise of both the aircraft and maritime aviation operations,” AMAFTU’s Lieutenant Commander Angus Hamilton told Navy Daily of the first of class trials.
“Additionally, the extensive ship-specific knowledge provided by Choules’ ship’s company, has allowed us to develop an enduring capability for both Choules and the CH-47F.”
Based at Naval Air Station Albatross, Nowra, AMAFTU is the Navy Fleet Air Arm’s flight test organisation. It comprises around 25 flight test pilots, engineers and systems specialists tasked to ensure ADF aircraft are safe to operate from Navy vessels at sea.
“It was great to showcase the CH-47F capability at sea and find out how the aircraft would integrate with Choules,” 5 Aviation Regiment aircrewman Corporal Alex McLean said.
“The biggest challenge we faced was conducting a vertical replenishment at night. Hovering six feet above a pitching deck using night vision goggles was a difficult and new experience for both the aircrew and Choules’ flightdeck team.”
The 16,000 tonnes displacement HMAS Choules is one of three amphibious lift ships in Navy service, alongside the two larger LHD amphibious assault ships. It can operate two helicopters from its large flightdeck, but unlike the LHDs lacks a hangar deck.
Originally commissioned into service with the UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 2006 as RFA Largs Bay, HMAS Choules was acquired in 2011 ahead of the LHDs’ entry into service to bolster the Navy’s amphibious capability.
“The CH-47F is a reliable workhorse with a great reputation for delivering cargo on time and on target,” commanding officer HMAS Choules, Commander David Graham, said.
“I am looking forward to seeing them in Choules on future operations.”