The lead ship of the RAN’s new air warfare destroyers, HMAS Hobart (III) has for the first time embarked an RAN MH-60R Romeo Seahawk helicopter for first of class flight trials (FOCFT).
Nicknamed the ‘Green Ghost’ after her John F Adams class namesake HMAS Hobart (II), the vessel commenced the FOCFT evolution in conjunction with the Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) in July. The trials follow a three-month upgrade to her aviation spaces as part of Project AIR 9000 to allow it to accommodate the Romeo and its comprehensive weapons suite.
With the Hobart class’s flight deck, hangar and weapons magazine being originally designed about the older S-70B-9 Seahawk, the vessels are receiving new flight deck and hangar lighting, hangar space optimisation, and better weapons storage to accommodate the newer aircraft and its more advanced sensors, systems and weapons.
“The trials have proven highly successful with day and night sorties flown to test and expand our operating limits,” Hobart’s Commanding Officer, CMDR Ryan Gaskin Commander told Navy Daily. “The expanded operating limits will be a pivotal capability multiplier as Hobart prepares for her maiden task group deployment to North East Asia later this year.
“Beyond this year, the findings from AMAFTU’s trials will be converted into procedures for how we can best use the MH-60R on our sister ships Brisbane and Sydney.”
The MH-60R is able to employ Mk54 torpedos, the APKWS guided rocket system, AGM-114 Hellfire laser guided air-to-surface missiles, and a door-mounted heavy machine gun. By comparison, the older Seahawk was armed only with the machine gun and the lighter and shorter Mk46 torpedo.
The FOCFT will not only evaluate the interaction between the vessel and helicopter in flight in various sea states and wind conditions, but also aircraft handling on the flight deck and in the hangar, and the ability of maintenance and weapons handling personnel to work effectively in the confined spaces of the hangar.
“We have had the usual lessons that help all newly embarked flights and ship’s companies work together and on top of that we’ve learned how the systems of a new ship like Hobart interact with a new type of aircraft like the MH-60R,” Leading Seaman Aviation Technician (Avionics) Carlos Chu added. “Some of the biggest lessons so far have centred on how our maintenance regime will function at sea in a hanger like Hobart’s to keep an aircraft flying and mission-capable.”
The second ship of the class, HMAS Brisbane is scheduled to undergo its aviation spaces upgrade sometime next year, while the third vessel, NUSHIP Sydney received its upgrade during construction.