LADS are grounded

The Royal Australian Navy’s Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight (LADS) has conducted its final sortie after 26 years of service.

CAPTION: The last Royal Australian Navy’s Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight crew exit their aircraft during the LADS Flight end-of-service ceremony at Cairns Airport, Queensland. Photo by Able Seaman Jarrod Mulvihill. Story by Lieutenant James McPherson.

This world-leading capability was developed in South Australia and, since 1993, has been providing the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian government with survey data for complex coastal and reef waters that are dangerous or difficult to survey by traditional ship-based methods.

Commanding Officer LADS Flight Lieutenant Commander Mark Matthews said LADS likely prevented numerous groundings on what would have otherwise been unchartered dangers.

“LADS is an incredible capability that allows us to survey more than 20 square nautical miles an hour in places that are not suitable or practical for hydrographic ships,” Lieutenant Matthews said.

“For the past three years, LADS’ primary mission has been to survey the Great Barrier Reef and other offshore coral reefs and atolls across northern Australia, resulting in major improvements in the charting of these areas.

“Over its life, LADS has charted vast areas of the Australian coast and has deployed to the Cocos Keeling Islands, the sub-Antarctic, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand collecting hydrographic data to improve the safety for all shipping.”

In total, the LADS Flight has flown more than 3000 sorties, conducted 186 surveys and covered an area of more than 50,000 square kilometres.

Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead paid tribute to more than 180 Navy personnel who have served in the LADS team and the many contractors who delivered services in support of the LADS Flight.

“I am proud of the extraordinary work the LADS Flight has achieved and thank everyone involved over the years,” Rear Admiral Mead said.

“It is a sad occasion to see the end of service of a Navy unit but it is an opportunity to reflect on an excellent job.

“Bravo Zulu LADS Flight.”

In line with the Defence White Paper 2016, the current hydrographic capabilities of Navy will be replaced by commercial hydrographic companies through the HydroScheme Industry Partnership Program (HIPP).

A celebration of the service of LADS will be held in Cairns – LADS’ homeport – on 9 November.

Navy members and supporting contractors interested in attending are invited to contact lads.flight@defence.gov.au for further information.

More information on LADS Flight is available at: http://www.navy.gov.au/fleet/aircraft/laser-airborne-depth-sounder

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Brian Hartigan

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