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September 13, 2012
HMA Ships Balikpapan, Betano and
We w ak will be decommissioned in
December after almost four decades of
While the ships continue to provide
excellent service, Navy will transi-
tion from the existing Fleet as its new
amphibious capabilities grow.
CN VADM Ray Griggs said in a
signal to all Navy personnel that the
decommissioning of Balikpapan,
Betano and We wak would be followed
by the paying off of HMA Ships Brunei,
Labuan and Tarakan by the end of 2014.
"Many of us have had the privilege
of serving in a shoebox," he said.
"I congratulate all personnel both, uni-
for med and civilian, who have operated
and maintained these wonderful amphibi-
ous work horses for almost fou r decades.
"Their operational service record is
virtually unparalleled and, unfortunate-
ly, mostly unheralded."
Commander Australian Amphibious
Task Group CAPT Ray Leggatt said
their operational record, particularly
during the past 20 years covering opera-
tions in Bougainville, East Timor and
Solomon Islands, had been outstanding.
"Their performance has been exem-
plary as indicated by the granting of a
meritorious unit citation for the LCH
group for operations in East Timor dur-
ing the INTERFET intervention during
1999-2000," he said.
"They have laid a great foundation as
we transition from the existing Fleet and
grow ou r new amphibious capabilities."
THE first milestone in the acqui-
sition of 24 MH-60R Seahawk
'Romeo' naval combat helicopters
will come early next year when 56
Fleet Air Arm personnel deploy to
the US to start training with the US
The deployment of the desig-
nated Romeo training squadron
will enable Navy to introduce a new
generation of anti-submarine and
anti-surface warfare helicopters by
the target date of 2015.
February 2013 will mark the
beginning of a busy schedule for
instructors, aircrew and maintainers.
CO-designate of the training
squadron, CMDR David Frost,
said the program in the US was
about realising the capability of the
Romeo as quickly as possible.
"Our biggest challenge is to
embrace the USN's tried and proven
training package and to soak up the
many lessons lear nt in a time-expe-
dient manner to ensure Navy can
integrate this new helicopter into
the ADF," he said.
"The Romeo training program is
modelled on the highly successful
Super Hornet program that saw Air
Force pilots and ground crew train
in the US on USN jets before taking
delivery of our own platforms."
Goodbye to LCH
LONG SERVICE: HMAS Balikpapan, entering Darwin Harbour in formation
with HMA Ships Benalla and Pirie on completion of Exercise Triton Thunder,
will be one of the first LCHs to be decommissioned. Photo: ABIS James Whittle
AND WE'RE OFF: US Navy MH-60R Seahawks will provide training for
Navy's Romeo squadron in the US until the arrival of the Romeos from
Getting ready for Romeo
''-- CMDR David Frost
Navy has selected
the right people
with the necessary
qualifications to bring
this new helicopter
home as soon as
possible, and I have
every confidence in
The squadron will train on USN
MH-60Rs until the delivery of the
Australian Romeos from December
2013. They will then operate along-
side USN squadrons for one year,
maturing skills and also supporting
test and evaluation.
"The Romeo is a proven capabil-
ity operated by the USN which has
accepted around 100 of them and
accumulated 90,000 flying hours,
including operational deployments,"
CMDR Frost said.
Although Navy will have access
to the USN's Romeo training pack-
age, aircrews and maintainers face
a steep learning cu rve to come to
grips with the advanced weapons
system and sophisticated avionics
"The Romeos will be equipped
with a highly sophisticated combat
system designed to employ Hellfire
air-to-surface missiles and the Mk54
anti-submarine torpedo," CMDR
"The key sensor though is the
dipping sonar, which significantly
enhances our anti-submarine war-
The 24 Romeos will support up
to eight f lights at sea, embarking in
Anzac-class frigates and the Hobart-
class Aegis-equipped AWDs. The
remainder will be based at HMAS
Albatross from Febr uary 2015.
The new training squadron will
be com missioned upon its return
to Australia in early 2015, when it
will start training more aircrew and
"It's an absolute honour to be
selected as the first CO and to lead
such a motivated and talented team,"
CMDR Frost said.
"Navy has selected the right peo-
ple with the necessary qualifications
to bring this new helicopter home as
soon as possible, and I have every
confidence in their ability."
The new helicopters will replace
16 Seahawk S-70B-2s at 816SQN and
will also introduce an air-to-surface
strike capability to the Fleet.
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