The first Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP) by an Australian MRH-90 helicopter to a United States Navy warship has been carried out off the coast of Hawaii.
The VERTREP consisting of 28 pallets to amphibious transport dock USS San Diego was also the largest ever by the ADF’s maritime support helicopter.
More than 100 pallets in total were moved from the underway replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock to San Diego, shared by the Australian MRH-90 (embarked in HMAS Canberra from 808 Squadron) and two US Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopters.
The VERTREP was conducted simultaneously to the replenishment at sea-liquid (RAS-L) or ‘underway replenishment’ of HMAS Canberra, sailing in company with San Diego and amphibious assault ship USS America as part of Task Group 176.1 in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.
Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander Dom Cooper said the activity demonstrated the MRH-90’s maturity in the maritime support helicopter role.
“We’ve moved more than 30 tonnes of cargo between large ships with a lot of other aircraft in the area,” he said.
“With increasing wind and swell it put our core skills to the test in some challenging but very enjoyable flying.
During the VERTREP, HMAS Canberra also received two US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters while USS America, less than a mile away, launched her embarked CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, the largest in the United States Marine Corps inventory.
Leading Seaman Aviation Aaron Smits performed the role of load master in his first ever VERTREP.
He said it was an excellent opportunity to put his training to the test in a busy and dynamic environment.
“Working with the US Navy has been excellent,” he said.
“They are very efficient in the way they follow their procedures.
“It’s a good eye opener for us to see how they operate and vice versa, when we work with them, they learn something from us as well.”
RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise, providing a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.
The exercise is the first major international engagement for the Royal Australian Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), MH-60R Seahawk and MRH-90 helicopters.