- A.N. Other
- Naval Aviation, Naval technology
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Melbourne II
- December 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Sea King’s replacement in the ASW role was the S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter, brought into service with 816 Squadron in September 1989. The Seahawk still provides an ASW role for the RAN, and was acquired to operate from the ANZAC and Adelaide Class Frigates. As the Seahawk is able to carry the Mk46 Torpedo, they are also equipped to be an anti-ship platform with an attack capability. The radar and sonar systems integrated on the Seahawk are quite advanced and assist the Seahawk in its role as a powerful ASW force. But these detection systems are supplemented by the capability of the engines fitted to the aircraft. A range of 700 nm allows the Seahawk to quickly cover an enormous area of water out of range of the ship’s sensors11. The effect of engine fuel efficiency and power is seen to have a direct impact on a deployed ship’s force preservation, as the aircraft allows earlier detection of sub-surface threats, giving the ship time to organise a defensive posture.
The RAN currently operates two other aviation platforms, both of which are employed primarily as training platforms. Both the Eurocopter AS350B Squirrel and the Augusta A109E Power are operated by 723 Squadron. The Squirrel has uses as a light utility helicopter, but is the primary aircraft for pilot trainees undergoing operational conversion courses. This airframe introduces trainees to piloting helicopters before moving to fly larger aircraft. The power performs a similar role, but it has a modern cockpit avionics.
The first naval helicopters employed radial reciprocating piston engines. These engines were hindered by power, gyroscopic, range and endurance issues, similar to their fixed wing applications. The benefits of gas turbine employment in helicopters greatly improved all of these issues, allowing a wider spectrum of uses for helicopters in the RAN. The employment of turboshaft powerplants in Australian naval rotary wing aviation broadened helicopter capabilities in all roles including utility and logistics, anti-submarine warfare, and surveillance. Force preservation of surface units is also heightened by the increased capabilities of the modern aircraft operated by the RAN today.
In its entire history, the RAN has operated 14 aircraft powered by some form of gas turbine engine, be it turbojet, turboshaft, turboprop or turbofan. In 1954 when the first jet propelled RAN aircraft arrived, this paved the path for future Australian naval aviation. The application of jet power helped to eliminate or reduce hindrances of piston engines of all configurations including reliability, safety, speed, durability, endurance and speed. The jet engine allowed the RAN a new capability in surface surveillance, surface strike, anti-submarine, and utility roles. The acquisition of modern aircraft capable of fulfilling these roles was significant to the RAN, shown many times in history when the aviation capability of the RAN has allowed Australia to work with the larger and more powerful nations, proving itself on exercise and on operation.
- 724 Squadron—A History
- Flight—The Complete History, R.G. Grant, 2010, p185
- Flight—The Complete History, R.G. Grant, 2010, p254-255
- Australia’s Military Aircraft, Ross Gillett 1987
- Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia
- 816 Squadron History http://www.navy. gov.au/816_Squadron_History
- Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Production History, Wynn Foster
- 805 Squadron History—http://www.navy.gov.au/805_Squadron
- Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia
- The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p210
- Sikorsky S-70B-2 Tabulated Data—Range
Grant R.G. Flight—The Complete History- Third Edition, Dorling Kindersley, London, 2010.
Odgers George, Navy Australia – Fifth Edition, National Book Distributors, Sydney, 1993.
Gillett Ross, Australia’s Military Aircraft, Network Distributions, Sydney, 1987.
Gas Turbine Propulsion, Glenn Research Centre, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/turbine.html accessed 14 Apr 2011.
Royal Australian Navy Aviation Squadrons, www.navy.gov.au/ accessed 9–19 Apr 2011