Monday, November 28, 2011

Helicopters on project of concern list--Frigate upgrade shows progress

The expensive and poorly managed MRH-90 helicopter project has made its way on to the project of concern list.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said on Monday the project had experienced delays of some two years with a risk of further delays and recently one aircraft suffered a major engine failure.

"The MRH project has encountered a number of significant technical issues, which have now triggered early indicators and warnings thresholds for schedule and contractor performance," he said in a statement.

Defence Materiel Organisation acting chief executive Warren King had recommended the project be listed as a project of concern and the government had agreed.

"Our policy objective here is a successful project and that is why we have reformed and improved and enhanced the project of concern arrangement with a very strong focus on remediation," he said.

The project of concern list now covers nine projects, headed by sustainment of the navy's Collins submarines.

Some good news: the Frigate upgrade program is off the project of concern list and is showing progress. Frigate class warships are highly useful for Australia's naval security needs.


Perplexed said...

Go to Channel 10 website, and then watch Tour of Duty, Australia's Secret War, aired tonight.
Makes your blood boil regarding the incompetence of DOD and DMO.
How the hell do we not have any deployable helicopters.
Bushranger we need you.

Bonza said...

Absolutely. Apart from Kiowa, Blackhawk, Seahawk and Chinook we haven't got any deployable helicopters...

Damn that stupid DoD for not sending AS350B Squirrels to Afghanistan!

Bushranger 71 said...

So Bonza; why not optimize Kiowa (for armed recce), Blackhawk and Seahawk so they would perform better in the high density altitude regional wet tropics? Then they would be even more deployable. Oh; and there are still some Iroquois in storage at Brisbane cheaply upgradable to Huey II.

A source tells me that the military in the Helicopter Systems Division of DMO are very silent and fearful of being questioned by the Minister. DMO has its own tame Minister so maybe they fear separate scrutiny by the Minister for Defence.

No public mention noticed hitherto of why Gumley was eased out at short notice, but helo projects/contracts may have been among reasons.

Perplexed said...

You know exactly why Bonza, apart from the Chinook

Ely said...

Eric,Page 175 of ANAO Report No 17 2010-11 2009-10 Major Projects Report (available on line) has DMO stating inter alia “ The MRH Project was viewed as a Military off-the-Shelf (MOTS) acquisition” unquote. But at that time some 7 or so years ago, the MRH had not been released into military service anywhere. And the pre-production prototypes were well short of certification. We are now experiencing the consequences of the DMO’s assessment which was plainly wrong-then and now.
Why can we not now independently review the original selection report(s) to determine why DMO was led to believe or came to the conclusion that MRH was MOTS? That appears to be the nub. The senior members of the evaluation team are mostly still amongst us therefore presumably available for questioning.

ELP said...

good point about the off-the-shelf purchase mention. I remember somebody brought that up before.

Bushranger 71 said...

Ely; methinks the root cause of the problem is the absurd ADF helicopter fleet rationalization strategy, aiming to reduce to 4 or 5 types.

If those that generated such flawed planning had operational acumen, they would have first established what helo functions were crucial for effective battlefield support. Obviously; light armed reconnaissance, utility helos (absolutely essential), gunship capacity (not attack helos), special operations roles including submarine support necessitating helos flight refuellable from C-130, heavy lift capacity. Add to that Navy requirements for general fleet support, boarding parties, ASW and ASUW capabilities.

Then apply the DWP2009 requirement for hardware Operational Flexibility: 'Chapter 8.61 - Australia cannot afford to maintain a large number of narrowly applicable capabilities. The future development of the ADF is to emphasise, wherever possible, operational flexibility and multi-role employment in the ADF's systems, platforms and organisations. This might involve, for example, achieving greater platform flexibility by way of inter-changeable modular design and construction techniques.'

Ascertain what of the helo fleet types were/are cost-effectively upgradable through manufacturer programs and optimise those types.
Kiowa, Iroquois (Huey II), Blackhawk, Chinook would have admirably covered the forementioned crucial roles. Add to that upgrade of existing Seahawks, perhaps also acquiring some of a later version.

My point is there was absolutely no need to generate the flawed ADF helo fleet rationalisation strategy which has created serious capability gaps. The worst aspect of all is intent to shed vital utility helo capacity. Shamefully, it was the military who conceived this imprudent strategy, albeit the Howard government was complicit in ordaining acquisition of Tiger and MRH90, both being quite unsuited for Australia's regional helicopter requirements. The question begged is why is this flawed strategy seemingly set in concrete when helicopter capability deficiencies are so blatantly obvious?

Maybe somebody might confirm what numbers of differing types are now being leased by the ADF to fill capability gaps!

Bonza said...


15 Blackhawks have been upgraded so far with the necessary EWSP and ballistic protection systems needed to allow them to deploy to Afghanistan. The same amount of Blackhawks as Sweden is buying for service in Afghanistan...

Why they aren't in the Ghan supporting Australian troops isn't up to DoD and especially not DMO. It's up to Government. Ask your local member perhaps why they aren't deployed, but as stated in your show last night more helicopters than ADF even owns are deployed to Khandahar in support of Coalition forces, so I'm not certain what added difference a couple of extra Blackhawks would make.

They have however been deployed constantly to Timor since 1999 as have Kiowas. Blackhawks have been deployed to Pakistan, Fiji and Solomans in that time as well.

Seahawks have been deployed constantly to the MEA since 1991. Besides the obvious flaw with the pair of Chinooks we have in Afghanistan at present and which the guys were shown being loaded into last night, the statement that we have "no" helicopters capable of deployment is patently false.

No need for hysterics. ADF has plenty of deployable helicopters. It just takes Government approval to send them anywhere though, just as it does with all Australian Force Elements.

Bushranger, you know perfectly well why we aren't upgrading Kiowas. They are in the process of being replaced by TIGER and HATS. You may not agree with it, but that's the authorisation ADF has. The Helicopter Strategic Master Plan has been approved by Government and that is the way we are going - down to 5 in-service helo types.

You might have noticed yesterday the decision to provide extra resources to maintain an additional at sea Seahawk flight and extending the Blackhawks to cover for the MRH-90 debacle? Surely that is some good news and more in tune with your ideology?

Bonza said...


Airforce has a handful of search and rescue types leased. The same it had when we did have Iroquois.

RAN has 3x A109E's on lease which are about to be replaced by 3x Bell 429's (which is one of the leading contender for HATS).

I fail to see the point of moaning on continually about Iroquois. They are about as likely as the F-111 to be returned to service. I would suggest it would be more useful to discuss what could be done with the current circumstances in mind, rather than what we might have preferred should have been done.

If additional funds were to be spent on helicopters they would be better spent on cancelling MRH-90 and wearing the cost of the program to date (good money afer bad again I know) and buying UH-60M off the shelf as Sweden has been forced to do.

Our current Blackhawks could then be re-manufactured to the same standard to support local Industry and provide an upgraded overall fleet, or alternatively an attractive product for sale on the market to recoup some of our helicopter money losses...

That would even meet the all important HSMP requirements and would keep Army and RAN happy too, neither of which are happy about MRH-90 from all reports.

Perplexed said...

Bonza you make make my day. I thought with 120 odd spin merchants in ADF they hardly need you.
Defend the indefensible.
Bushranger you make sense.

Perplexed said...

Sorry, but you can hardly get into trouble in East Timor, Fiji?, or the Solomans can you.
A failure to provide resources is a failure.

Albatross said...

Bonza, one paragraph in your last post made a LOT of sense: "If additional funds were to be spent on helicopters they would be better spent on cancelling MRH-90 and wearing the cost of the program to date (good money afer bad again I know) and buying UH-60M off the shelf as Sweden has been forced to do."

Ely said...

OK BR 71, But that is another (but important) discussion. I remain interested to learn why we set about to procure a MOTS system, then according to DMO puchased what he thought was a MOTS system. But then a few years later determined that indeed it was not a MOTS but an immature developmental system when that was obvious all along from the outset.
We seem to have an opportunity now that folk are perhaps a little sensitised to the issue to try and determine the root cause of that particular outcome of the selection process.The answers might enable us to fine-tune our Risk Management processes

Perplexed said...

Albatross agree with that, but why does clear thinking never happen.
Would love to see Root Cause used . It is actually my religion.
Why do not people learn from their mistakes. Point out those mistakes and it becomes personal.
Shoot the messenger.

Perplexed said...

Ely, excellent

Bonza said...

Perplexed, root cause analysis interests you? It's my understanding that process requires a systematic and open minded approach to solving problems.

How does that reconcile with your constant attributing blame to the DMO for every ill in Defence?

Army Blackhawks are capable of deploying to Afghanistan today. That is a fact. It is Government's decision whether or not to deploy them.

You're a former soldier I believe? Perhaps it's time you thought back to your old principles of marksmanship training, the second of which is correct aim. It matters little how well you fire if you don't aim correctly.

You don't.

Perplexed said...

"Army Blackhawks are capable of deploying to Afghanistan today. "
What after over 20 years of service. The engines and rotor blades should have been upgraded years ago.Still have not. Will not work in hot and high.Ask Bushranger.

Hey I worked for Helitech in the safety area some years ago.
The esm and defensive aids have been upgraded? when?
However, my contacts are in 5th Aviation Regt.

And in any case there are not enough airframes.The original request from Army was for 75, they got 39?
No I was not in the Army, apart from the CMF at UNI in the early 70's.
However continued the sport/skill of range shooting until a couple of years ago.
I thank the Army for my skills.
I am not here to be vindictive, but to have people look at the failures of the past, and ,yes, use Root Cause processes to fix the problems.
Yes DMO is to blame. Let us fix it.

Bonza said...

Correction, just checked my notes. My apologies, Army has 12x Blackhawks modified under Project AIR 5416, not 15x. All modifications were completed by Mid-2010 however so I'd go back and check my 5 Avn Regt sources if I were you. The interim upgraded Blackhawks (interim in the sense that they are to provide our tactical helo deployment capability until MRH-90 is ready) feature the same protection suite as that fitted to the Chinooks we deploy to the Ghan.

The only photo I've seen of a Blackhawk with the EWSP kit can been seen on aircraft 219 here:

Several others in that gallery appear to have the tell-tale glint of the UV sensors that form part of the AN/AAR-60 MILDS fitted to the aircraft, but there is no doubt all 12x aircraft have been fitted and tested with the kit.

12 aircraft would easily suffice for a deployment of 3-4 helicopters on a permanent basis to Afghanistan which is all we would need to provide near constant medivac and troop insertion capability over that which we already gain through Coalition tasking, but for the last time, that is not ADF's decision to make. It's Governments.

As to hot and high performance again I'd defer to 5 Avn Regt about that, but I would note they performed well enough in similar conditions in Pakistan only a few short years back and whilst the threat level wasn't the same it was a pure lift and transport role. The aircraft were stressed with very high loads and handled it well.

Bushranger 71 said...

Hello again Bonza; first up, your November 29, 2.03PM bit.

The RAAF has not had any helicopter assets since 1989 and not known whether AAvn or Navy was willing or able to supply resources, hence the civilair SAR contract.

Army Aviation also leases Bell 412, ostensibly for Loadmaster (Crewman) rescue hoist training because the Hotel model Iroquois capability was forfeited.

What I am 'moaning' about Bonza is the reckless waste of very usable relatively low time platforms that could be cost-effectively optimised to provide adequate capabilities and more credible military preparedness.

Perplexed mentions Army wanted 75 Blackhawk but got only 39. Adding 25 Hotel models upgraded to Huey II would have near made up their target utility helo capacity. Semantics regarding utility helo definition aside, Huey II generally does near enough to the same job as Blackhawk which is twice as heavy and 5 times more expensive to operate. H2 also beats the pants off anything else for hot and high performance and costs only $2million whereas UH-60M around $20million.

The goal of Project Air 87 to replace both Kiowa recce and Iroquois gunship capabilities was ridiculous as an air-conditioned cocoon tank busting so-called attack helicopter like Tiger cannot adequately perform either role. Attack helos are much less suited for intimate close air support than gunship versions of more versatile platforms such as derivations of Blackhawk and the Super Huey (UH-1Y) in service elsewhere. Tiger has no gun redundancy but could be marginally improved for close air support by substitution of podded gun weaponry; however, France has proved that Tiger is also weapon payload limited when operating from around 6,000 feet AMSL in Afghanistan. The project should have been killed off (like the Seasprite) and losses accepted when the ANAO generated a scathing report.

I do agree that the MRH90 project should be terminated whatever the cost, but not blowing more billions on say 46 very costly UH-60M in lieu when 10 'new' Huey II could be acquired for around $20million (1 x UH-60M unit cost). And why the hell is DoD even contemplating refurbishment of Blackhawks and Seahawk for prospective sale to other nations but not for ADF employment? Capitalising on initial taxpayer investment and maintaining adequate military preparedness ought to take precedence over disposing of usable assets to offset losses from failing Defence Capabilities Plan strategies.

You imply it is necessary 'to meet the all important HSMP requirements', a strategy that is already failing dismally. Yet downstream, acquisition of a light twin-engined helo is mooted to replace Kiowa and Squirrel. The HATS intention is flawed as multi-engine platforms are quite unsuited for basic helo training; neither does something like the Bell 429 or UH-72A Lakota (EC145) adequately replace the Iroquois for utility battlefield support requirements in multiple respects. Not everything the US Army does is wise.

Clearly, politicians ordain defence policy for the nation and the composition of any deployed military elements; but many within the Defence realm want to hide behind this facade although having been largely involved in the formulation of flawed defence planning.

It is also really outrageous and an insult to taxpayers that support of largely foreign-parented defence industry, primarily for job creation purposes, remains the major plank of Australian defence policy in lieu of maintaining continuous adequate and credible military preparedness. But both of the major political parties endorse this flawed posture.

The military hierarchy have seemingly been blameworthy in not fighting to keep the ADF helicopter fleet progressively optimised for combat readiness rather than conjuring planning for shiny new gear deficient for regional military operations, creating serious capability gaps as the HSMP unfolds.

Albatross said...

There is a lot of commonsense in Bushranger 71's last post, but one paragraph bears repeating:

"It is also really outrageous and an insult to taxpayers that support of largely foreign-parented defence industry, primarily for job creation purposes, remains the major plank of Australian defence policy in lieu of maintaining continuous adequate and credible military preparedness. But both of the major political parties endorse this flawed posture."

For accuracy's sake, the DoD really should be re-named 'The Department of Defence Industry".

Ely said...

The discussion appears to have gone off on a slightly different tack. But I would like to submit again a proposal that the original selection report(s) which led to the procurement of the NH90/MRH be analysed to see if light is shed on why DMO viewed the procurement as MOTS. I recall that the selection team was coordinated by a contractor and that the selection team included a good number of subject matter “experts” from all branches of Defence. The team included a good number of senior uniformed and reserve “operators” but not many T and E or Systems folk. And I recall that the majority appeared (by all accounts) to be not from DMO. It seems highly likely that the findings of this substantially non-DMO team should have influenced DMO in his view that MRH was MOTS and therefore not significantly developmental If that was the case it seems important that we determine what was said and whether it contributed to the current arisings with the procurement project and how the recommendations evolved and were affected by external players- including industry up to the "Approval Chop". Maybe your blog could exert some influence in that direction.

Bushranger 71 said...

See this bit:

If time in service of Blackhawks and Seahawks can be extended to cover flawed planning, the obvious question arises why not then optimise them for continued ADF utilisation? Put another way, what was/is the justification for shedding them?

The HATS component of the HSMP will not materially contribute to ADF operational capability enhancement and then only a few years downstream; ergo, why is it necessary 'to meet the all important HSMP requirements', as Bonza infers? Surely it is more important to regain diminishing operational capacity than to create some fancy training system. Perhaps this component of the strategy aims more at favouring the dominant role of foreign-parented entities like Raytheon providing services at Nowra!

Whether DMO was adequately advised re the MRH90 being proven as MOTS capable is an interesting question Ely; but that was just part of the overall flawed HSMP which has thus far resulted in 2 bad acquisitions and will forfeit all vital utility helo capacity unless the strategy is trashed. But that course would require good old-fashioned positive politico-military leadership.

There needs to be frank admission that the Defence Capability Plan has serious shortcomings in multiple respects and warrants urgent objective review. Alas; bureaucratic decisions are usually vigorously defended no matter what their failings.

Bushranger 71 said...

Sorry; omitted to include this link:

Anonymous said...

A lot of armchair generalship and wise-after-the-eventness going on here. Whatever the reasons they bought the NH90 - its 7 years ago now and too late to turn back so everyone better get used to it. I remember when the decision was being made between the Romeo Blackhawk and the NH 90, the final arbiter seemed to be that the basic design of the NH 90 was simply 25 years more advanced than the essential Blackhawk airframe. The ideas were of a different generation, it has a glass cockpit and FBW (the pilots loved the sound of that) and had nice little touches such as a rear loading ramp (Blackhawk has nothing similar). The point is that the Blackhawk is nearing the limit of its potential for development and capability expansion while the NH90 has only just begun its journey. The problems with project management are all about the DMO's inability to negotiate its way out of a wet paper bag in a rainstorm and dont reflect fundamental problems with the aircraft itself, which seem to be to be overstated anyway. If we wanted a completly risk free program, we wouldn't even be bothering in the first place. As to the Tiger, dont underestimate that little beastie. The customers (ie the Senior Officers who actually employ the capability) have just started to incorporate it into their planning and using it on EX. Its blowing them away. The feedback from them is that they are stunned by what it offers, and its now close to FOC.

Ely said...

Anonomous of 301233nov11
It is no good you hiding behind that anonomous ID. I know that you are Black Adder. I would recognise that turn of phrase anywhere. But a good stiffening of the troops never goes amiss, What? Hope you enjoyed your recent visit to Aus Rowan.

Bushranger 71 said...

Hello Anonymous; if applying combat experience nouse to a problem is 'armchair generalship', then I am guilty.

Your logic would consider platforms like C-47 Dakota, B-52, Iroquois Huey II, UH-1Y Super Huey, C-130 and a host of others to be obsolescent; yet they have all been technologically upgraded including glass cockpits, engines and a whole range of state of the art sensors/weaponry, as appropriate. Regarding fly-by-wire flight controls, it really matters nought from a piloting perspective whether these systems are electro-hydraulic or FBW and the UH-60M will likely be far from the end of development for the Blackhawk airframe – consider the special types used in the recent Osama Bin Laden event.

The MRH90 is basically a civil medium lift helicopter design adapted for military purposes and is certainly not suited or cost-effective for utility helo work, like operating into rugged remote vegetation covered sites where obstacles can pierce low fuselages. It IS NOT a robust military utility aircraft compared with the proven Iroquois and Blackhawk and a ramp is of no material benefit in usual utility roles.

During discussion with a civvy DoD specialist in Canberra, I mentioned need for utility helos to hover over ongoing fire-fights to accurately drop ammunition resupplies and recover casualties by winch; also, the need for gunships to get right into the face of the enemy to deliver accurate suppressive fire, sometimes within 10 metres of friendly troops in jungle. His response was: 'Oh, our new helicopters will be too expensive for that sort of work and we will use stand-off weaponry.' Impossible to provide the requisite gun accuracy at long ranges and such is the lack of operational acumen among our DoD planners.

Enhancing platforms like Iroquois and Blackhawk through ongoing manufacture upgrade programs and adaptation of a wide range of type certified systems and weaponry is absolutely zero risk, not like acquiring the comparatively unproven Tiger and MRH90, and foreseeably the F-35.

Senior Officers are obligated to toe the party line and speak the merits of new hardware like Tiger, as done by a Brigadier a day or so back. But how many of them have fired a shot in anger or even experienced situations like outlined earlier? Few I bet.

Operating environments are pertinent. The Tiger has some good sensors, but similar kit is certified for fitment to Iroquois and Blackhawk versions. Afghanistan is more akin to a big barren rifle range where longer range weaponry works okay; but its a reasonable assumption henceforth that the ADF would be more likely to involve in our rugged regional high density altitude wet tropics, like PNG, where even more demanding jungle and weather conditions prevail than in Vietnam. In my view, this is where the shortcomings and operating cost penalites of Tiger and MRH90 will become very obvious.

You believe the ADF is stuck with the MRH90. Well; sooner or later, if Blackhawk is shed like the Iroquois, the lack of vital utility helo capacity will surely dawn on somebody; but the Service Chiefs involved in this flawed planning will have escaped accountability. The smartest move would be to just store the MRH90 if the project cannot be curtailed and optimise Blackhawks/Seahawks so those capabilities can be retained.

Perplexed said...

Bushranger, exactly.
Also, I believe the need to undetake repairs in the field has not been thought about.
You can take youe Huey2 or Blackhawk down to the local Holden dealer.
Doubt that there would be too many Ferrari dealers to fix your MRH90 or Tiger?

Perplexed said...

Actually some of the MRH 90 would be handy for Customs?

Anonymous said...

Bushranger, you know as well as I do that the likelihood of them hovering ANY helo over an ongoing firefight these days is zero. Even the yanks dont after what happened in Somalia - pictures of dead crewmen being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu didnt play well at home. Do you seriously think any of our current enemies would behave differently? Yes they did this in 1966 at Long Tan and it saved guys lives. But imagine if one of the Iriquois had been brought down? We all know how fragile they are - every helo is. I might add that the Blackhawk is not going to be used this way either - for the same reasons - expense and risk. I suspect that a lot of this anti Eurocopter feeling is coming from those who are from the usual "Buy American" crowd. Sorry fellas, they arent the only players in the game now - and they arent necesarilly the best either. The people I was referring to do know what they are talking about and it was a candid discussion and a closed audience. Many of the people there have been shot at this year in the MEAO - I think that counts as valid operational experience. Time has moved on guys, get over your obsession with the Huey - its day has passed and the Blackhawk is about to be superseded as well. The future is not going to be like the past.

Perplexed said...

There is one problem with your argument"anon" again.
The Europcopters after many years do not work.When is IOC for the Tiger?
IOC for the MRH 90?
You tell me.
You can not.
The MRH will never be operational, and the Tiger is not far behind. It is now 2011, how many years has it been since it started the process for the tiger?
It is not"Buy American", but buy something that works, and is maintainable.
The day of the Blackhawk is over?, I wonder what the Americans say about that, considering the numbers they are manufacturing.How many plastic NH90's will be built?

Sweeden selected wht Aircraft to go to Afghanistan, even though they have the plastic fantastic.
And anyway where do you get your spare parts.
The whole Tiger and MRH90 program is held up because of the inability of Europe to supply spare parts.

Ely said...

After this one last shot I will give up on trying to get a discussion going on the need for an objective analysis of what RM process went into the selection of MRH so as to better inform (perhaps) the risk management of future procurments. Suffice it to say that it is an valid and indeed a mandated process to review. Please have a look at the good work done by DSTO on assessing system maturity here: (and it has been around for a number of years before DSTO adapted it) In theory, the application of methodology should have made us aware of what we were getting into with NH90/MRH. What went wrong? We need to learn.

Perplexed said...

Ely I agree, however a lot of people tend to shoot the messenger.

Albatross said...

I can't say if this is pertinent to this argument, (but suspect that it is)in the Eurocopter/Tiger/MRH-90 -v- Blackhawk argument, but in the airline game, the engineers found that if a Boeing needed 'first line' repairing, (the airline equivalent of 'in the field' repairs),the men on the spot could slap on a patch and Robert was your Dad's brother - aircraft back on the line earning money.

However, when the Airboos came on the scene, it was a totally different matter. Everything was engineered down to the finest tolerance, leaving just enough material to make the structure viable - and not a millimetre more - so rather than being able to slap on the proverbial patch, it usually meant buying a whole new, very expensive part (of course!) from Airboos!!

Where the airline isn't making money is such an instance, a military force in the same situation isn't fielding an asset in support of troops - a much, much more important consideration.

Why do I feel that maintenance crews in the field servicing the MRH-90 and the Tiger are going to ave a very similar tale to tell?

Ely said...

As an aviator of a little more than 40 years service and longer as a surface operator my hard learnt number one principle is that it doesnt matter a toss who makes the aeroplane. What counts is that it can do the job and that it is available. All the rest is hot air to the operator. And to shift contexts a little, the recent example of Mi 17 procurments is noteworthy. BR 71 is I think talking about getting the job done where others are perhaps focussed upon the "beads and mirrors" of rear ramps, glass cockpits, high tech spin and Brigadier's seances about how good the Tigre really might in theory be (were is the OPEVAL). I doubt we are going reconcile the two vastly differing even diametrically opposed viewpoints.

Bushranger 71 said...

Anonymous; like many, you are off track regarding Vietnam War history.

The much-vaunted though noble 9SQN contribution in the Battle of Long Tan was really a microcosym of the overall unit effort during 5.5 years (2,000 days) of unit Vietnam War involvement and 1ATF was ultimately involved in multiple larger scale operations against enemy forces wherein substantial casualties were also incurred. The Squadron flew 58,768 hours overall representing the highest effort of any flying unit during any campaign in the very operationally active 90 year history of the RAAF.

9SQN Iroquois did not hover over the contact during the Battle of Long Tan; it was a lowish speed flyby. I was previously referring to the many later instances wherein it was necessary to manoeuvre while hovering over rifle muzzles to drop ammunition where needed and then winch out casualties. The overwhelming bulk of such work was in support of infantry battalions, but about 110 SAS patrols were also extracted in contested situations. Those styles of operation are what is necessary in jungle war-fighting to do the best you can for the troops on the ground.

One 9SQN aircraft was shot down and destroyed with personnel losses while hovering to winch up casualties during a fire-fight, 2 others were forced to land due ground-fire and another 21 suffered varying degrees of battle damage. 7 aircraft were lost overall due to multiple causes, 6 aircrew killed and 8 wounded. Losses are an inescapable consequence of involvement in conflict and attrition is normalLy built in to aviation force structure planning.

The Iroquois is not fragile and can absorb an enormous amount of battle and/or crash damage, as can Blackhawk.

So you reckon the future is not going to be like the past! Then you obviously have no appreciation of the 50 or so years of prior operations in the northern archipelago supporting Pacific Island Regiments and Australian Army units. I assure you helo combat operations in that tough environment would be little different to requirements in Vietnam to get the job done - we did SAS pre-deployment training for Vietnam in PNG.

The Air Force guys at Milne Bay and in Korea were also not daunted by aircraft losses and aircrew casualties, which were quite significant. I really hope that you are not implying that the will does not now exist to perform similarly in difficult combat environs. If that was unlikely so, then maybe the battlefield support helos should have been left where they were pre-1989.

NGF said...

I agree fully with Ely. To reinforce the point, it shoud be noted that NATO has only just approved an operational configuration of the NH90:

Other cases of Australia buying an imature systems: Wedgetail, MRTT, ARH Tiger.

If buying MOTS at least wait until your purchase is proven.

Ely said...

Before this topic passes astern (for now) I wanted to come back to one of Bonza’s uncharacteristically off-hand posts in which I took him to demean the AS 350B Squirrel. But perhaps I will assist him in making his point though that is not my objective. The AS350B has been deployed to various AO’s. The aircraft was first embarked on our FFG when the Seahawk was delayed due to all the familiar and usual reasons. I believe that the AS350B remains the only aircraft that the RAN has been the first to certificate for most weather day/night embarked operation. And the type served us very well usually with first tour aircrew and maintainers, for many years. When the Seahawk was eventually introduced the AS350B was able to complement the more capable aircraft in the dual hangar FFG and it provided aviation capability in larger air capable fleet units. Page 293 of Chris Couthard Clark’s book “Where Australians Fought”–available in most ADF libraries, shows an RAN AS350B providing top-cover for a British Lynx & boarding party over Iraqi ship MV Tamur during Gulf I. The AS350B’s machine gun providing for the performance of that role was loaned by Army, the MG mount (also fitted to Seahawk-not shown) was locally made and certificated at NAS Nowra in the days before deployment (this approach will be familiar to BR71). The need for a MG had not been foreseen. The ammunition for the MG was initially provided also by Army (in exchange for some Navy 7.62 ball in fact). So please note that the AS 350 certainly is deployable, has been deployed and done the business. Anon might also care to reflect that we may not always get to select the location of our next fire-fight.
The AS 350B also illustrates our sometimes “needs must” approach we have talked a bit about and that the Gucci solution is not always available to us.

Bonza said...


I wasn't demeaning anything, other perhaps the rather "emotional" comment that we don't have ANY deployable helicopters in ADF.

Clearly that statement was untrue by the fact that even in that show you can see Australian soldiers boarding Australian helicopters in Afghanistan and I was intent merely upon pointing that out.

I have no issue with the AS350B at all. It has served very well from all accounts, but it's hardly a type that you'd send to Afghanistan, which was kind of the point. Perhaps it didn't come off the way I had intended but that comment was intended to point out, wryly that the Squirrel is the ONLY in-service helicopter type we have that ISN'T deployed somewhere in the world at present...

A rather different reality than the statement, "How the hell do we not have any deployable helicopters" suggests.


Perplexed said...

Boarding one or two Chinooks.Does that not tell you somthing?
Oh and now one. How is it that we have forgotten about attrition, or is in the book of lost lessons?
"How the hell do we not have any deployable helicopters" suggests."
One or two helicopters qualifys.

Bonza said...

We have two Chooks in Afghanistan, both operational. Means the fleet is down to 3 in Australia, that's what it tells me.

Also tells me there are more ISAF transport helicopters operating in support of our forces there than the entire ADF even possesses.

Get emotional all you like, but it doesn't change the fact that ADF has all the air mobility it could possibly require in theatre but the force in being has far more urgent requirements than a few of our transport helicopters sent over there.

A mobile counter-mine capability beyond the flail equipped Bushmasters would be a start...

Perplexed said...

"Get emotional all you like, but it doesn't change the fact that ADF has all the air mobility it could possibly require in theatre but the force in being has far more urgent requirements than a few of our transport helicopters sent over there.
Provided by everone else, including leased helicopters from Russian.
The numbers, readiness are inadequate.
Lessons of the past have been lost again, and apparently the concept of "attrition", wear and tear no longer apply.

You defend the indefensible.