Royal Australian Navy Seahawk helicopter “Skeletor” has flown its last operational flight after a career logging 6200 airframe hours and spanning more than 28 years of service.
Navy took the opportunity to retire the anti-submarine helicopter S-70B-2, serial N24 -011 during HMAS Arunta’s recent maintenance period in Bahrain while deployed on Operation Manitou.
The helicopter’s last flight from the ship was into Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East region, where it was dismantled and prepared for transport back to Australia.
HMAS Arunta Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Stewart Mathies, said the helicopter provided great service and rarely missed a beat.
“She has behaved brilliantly for us, we are hoping that its replacement does exactly the same,” he said. “She has been an amazing aircraft - just amazing.”
Navy’s fleet of S-70B-2 helicopters is being replaced by the newer and greatly developed Seahawk MH-60R helicopter, often referred to as the Romeo model, which is operated by 725 Squadron at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, NSW.
A Romeo model will soon arrive in-theatre so Arunta can maintain its extended surveillance and interception capability as it patrols with the multinational Combined Maritime Forces in the Middle East.
LCDR Mathies said the Romeo model was Navy’s next generation of submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter.
“The Romeo model has already proven itself on operations both with HMAS Perth here in the Middle East last year and on other navy activities,” he said.
The MH-60R is equipped with highly sophisticated combat systems designed to employ Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo.
Twenty four MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters have been purchased at a cost of about $3 billion to replace the older S-70B-2 helicopters currently serving with 816 Squadron.