Australia’s new multirole aviation training vessel MV Sycamore has recently arrived in Sydney.
Designed to support Defence helicopter training, having been launched in Vietnam in August 2016, built by Skelder and overseen by Serco Defence, the 94-metre ship is a flight deck equipped sea-going training vessel for the crews of most types of helicopters used by the Australian Defence Force.
Captain Al Whittaker said building of the Damen-designed steel ship began in 2015.
“Sycamore has completed its harbour acceptance testing, systems factory acceptance testing and the shipyard acceptance tests,” he said.
The ship arrived in Sydney on June 26, where her flag state was changed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s red ensign.
“It will take about six weeks before the Authority awards the operating certificate, which will be considered final acceptance by the Commonwealth as a special purpose ship for naval use only,” Captain Whittaker said.
Sycamore will then undertake first-of-class flight trials for the EC135 helicopter and enter operational service in January 2018.
Captain Whittaker said the vessel would be operated and maintained by Serco and have two contracted civilian crews of 22 with room for 71 Defence personnel overnight for 20 days.
“The ship will operate 280 sea days a year and is designed for a range of training functions, including sea familiarisation for new officers, mine warfare and diving support, torpedo and guided weapon recovery and consort duties,” he said.
“Sycamore has an air capable radar and a training station in the small air traffic control room and can be used for anti-submarine aircraft controller or procedural air controller training activities.”
The vessel is the first Australian ship designed and built to operate unmanned aerial vehicles and is fitted with the antennas and operating system for ScanEagle.
It has an adaptable module for the Schiebel Camcopter S100 unmanned helicopter to provide another asset for unmanned aircraft system support training.
The vessel is also fitted with the aircraft ship integrated secure and traverse system to enable helicopter pilots to safely land and take off from the deck in severe weather conditions and at night.
Captain Whittaker said Sycamore was the first dedicated training ship since HMAS Jervis Bay decommissioned in 1994.
“There will be a small permanent military footprint aboard the ship including a Navy liaison officer and a controller of the tasking,” he said.
“The Fleet Exercise Program will be the primary tasking tool for the vessel and it will operate as a regular Fleet unit.”