Royal Australian Navy’s landing helicopter dock got another opportunity to shine at the International Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii as the largest and heaviest U.S. armed forces helicopter landed on it deck for the first time.
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53E Super Stallion flew to Canberra from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii as part of a series of ongoing US/Australian flight trials during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016.
This is a second first for Canberra during the wargames as the largest Australian Navy vessel recently also hosted the U.S. Marine Corps tilt rotor aircraft MV-22 Osprey.
The Super Stallion is slower than the long-range, high-speed Osprey, but can carry a staggering 13,600 kilograms of internal cargo; an underslung load of up to 14,500 kilograms or 55 troops with centreline seats installed.
Commander – Flying, HMAS Canberra, Lieutenant Commander Adam Smith said the landing was a sign of enhanced collaboration with foreign Defence forces.
“We can now develop a program where we can operate with US aircraft in any theatre of operation,” he said.
“If the Americans are there, they can land on us, and we can support them with fuel and any sort of necessities they need as a platform to carry out their task.”
The helicopter’s seven main rotor blades can deliver up to 95 knots of downwash depending on gross weight.
Aircraft Director, Leading Seaman Aviation Support Benjamin Sullivan said the experience of directing the landing of the Super Stallion will be one he’ll never forget.
“The helicopter is much bigger than anything I’ve directed before,” he said. “The downwash was immense. It was a great experience!”
In recent years, the seasonal Marine Rotational Force – Darwin has included a detachment of CH-53 helicopters to support the training objectives of US Marines in Australia.
The two partner countries are confident that cross-decking opportunities with the Royal Australian Navy’s two Landing Helicopter Docks will significantly enhance the nations combined ability to respond swiftly to Humanitarian and Disaster Relief missions in the region.
RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, is the first major international engagement for the Royal Australian Navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), MH-60R Seahawk and MRH-90 helicopters.