Aircraft maintainers are proving vital for mission success as HMAS Toowoomba continues its Indo-Pacific regional presence deployment.
CAPTION: Navy aviation technician Able Seaman Casey Anderson, of HMAS Toowoomba, takes oil samples from the embarked MH-60R helicopter Valkyrie during a regional presence deployment. Story and photo by Leading Seaman Ernesto Sanchez.
While the rest of Toowoomba’s about 200-strong ship’s company maintains the ship, aviation technicians are busy keeping the embarked helicopter operating in the harsh maritime environment.
Affectionately known by its call sign ‘Valkyrie’, the MH-60R Seahawk Romeo of Nowra-based 816 Squadron’s Flight 607 is considered among the world’s most capable and advanced maritime warfare helicopters.
Its highly sophisticated combat system employs advanced above-and-below water sensors, and has weapons capable of detecting and responding to threats at long distances.
Able Seaman Naliwan Bishop is part of the team charged with keeping Valkyrie and all its systems airworthy, reliable and mission-ready.
“Scheduled and preventative maintenance is an essential part of naval aviation, especially considering the servicing requirements that come with an embarked Romeo,” Able Seaman Bishop said.
“Maintenance can vary from complex to mundane tasks, but all are equally critical in ensuring Valkyrie can safely provide an effective capability to HMAS Toowoomba.”
One of those mundane but crucial tasks is the routine engine wash.
“The compressor wash (engine rinse) occurs after every overwater flight. It’s a routine task to rinse out the salt from the engines, just like washing your car after going four-wheel driving on the beach,” Able Seaman Bishop said.
“Even though it’s not a technical or complicated maintenance routine, it is extremely important in the highly corrosive environment at sea.”
Flight operations officer Lieutenant Ashley Hill considers Flight 607’s maintainers as the foundation to Valkyrie being an essential element of Toowoomba’s mission while deployed.
“Having an embarked aircraft such as Valkyrie is an invaluable force multiplier for a warship. This capability wouldn’t be achievable without the crucial work of our team of maintainers,” Lieutenant Hill said.
“Every time we fly, there is a strong trust that the maintenance is completed on time, to the highest standard, so that we can safely achieve our mission as a team.
“Our maintainers are a vital component in providing an aviation element while at sea.”
Toowoomba is currently undertaking a regional presence deployment in Southeast and Northeast Asia, along with the guided missile destroyer HMAS Brisbane and Australia’s newest replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart.