The Australian Defence Force’s Helicopter Aircrew Training System for the Army and Navy has declared an initial operational capability (IOC).
Designed to replace Navy’s Airbus AS350BA Squirrels and Army’s Bell 206B Kiowas with one training system, HATS is a combined Boeing/Thales team offering 15 Airbus EC135 T2+ helicopters, new synthetic training devices and courseware adopted under Project AIR 9000 Phase 7.
“Following successful testing of the individual aircrew training courses throughout 2018, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan declared the conditions had been met for Initial Operating Capability,” Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said in a statement on April 1.
The aircraft are operated by Navy’s 723 squadron in refurbished facilities at Nowra, while Boeing staff instruct students on the synthetic devices. A 94m multi-mission aviation training vessel, the MV Sycamore was also acquired for HATS trainees to gain deck landing and launch experience.
“At an acquisition cost of AUD $436 million, HATS has delivered a modern helicopter training system for Defence which has the ability to train up to 144 helicopter pilots, aircrew and aviation warfare officers each year,” Minister Pyne said.
“723 Squadron is staffed by Navy and Army aircrew, with additional instructors, support staff and aircraft maintenance provided by Boeing Defence Australia, who employ 108 contracted personnel in the Nowra area.”
The helicopter wears ‘NAVY’ and ‘ARMY’ titles on the port and starboard sides of the vertical fin, respectively, above a fanged Taipan emblem, the unofficial emblem of Navy’s 723 Squadron.
After some initial delays to the development of the courseware, the first course commenced training in January 2018 and graduated in September.