The Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Bay-classs landing ship Dock HMAS Choules (L100) has conducted First of Class Flight Trials for the CH-47F Chinook helicopter marking a significant increase to amphibious capability.
Elements from the Australian Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment and the Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit embarked Choules for the duration of the flight trials.
The CH-47F conducted 206 launches and flew for a total of 66 hours. Observations and measurements of the flights formed the basis for the development of Ship Helicopter Operating Limits, which define the conditions for the safe conduct of CH-47F flying operations in Choules. Many of the flights took place off the coast of Queensland in all types of conditions influenced by wind, sea and swell.
Commanding Officer HMAS Choules, Commander David Graham was pleased with the aircraft.
“The CH-47F is a reliable workhorse with a great reputation for delivering cargo on time and on target. I am looking forward to seeing them in Choules on future operations,” Commander Graham said.
The CH-47F Chinook is capable of carrying a large number of passengers and cargo, and the operation will bring about the expansion of operational flexibility within the ADF.
Choules frequently operates with a variety of different helicopters from both Army and Navy, however each type of aircraft is different. Successfully integrating the CH-47F into Choules’ operations required the development of an understanding between embarked aviation elements and ship’s company.
Aircrewman Corporal Alex McLean enjoyed the process of embarking a new class of aircraft.
“It was great to showcase the CH-47F capability at sea and find out how the aircraft would integrate with Choules,” he said.
“It was also a good opportunity to meet new people across the ADF services and develop working relationships that may come in handy during future combined operational tasking.
“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’ flight deck team.”
The Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) also made a series of observations to provide feedback to Navy on how to make CH-47F operations work safely and effectively.
Lieutenant Commander Angus Hamilton of AMAFTU said conducting First of Class Flight Trials involving the integration of an Army aircraft into the maritime environment was a very complex process with a number of interesting challenges.
“The combined Navy and Army flight test team has brought together the expertise of both the aircraft and maritime aviation operations.
“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,” Lieutenant Commander Hamilton said.
LEUT Andrew McGuigan