Australian Navy retires S-70B-2, AS350BA helicopters from active service

Royal Australian Navy photo of AS350BA Squirrel helicopters performing their signature Pairs Aerobatic Display in 2015

The Royal Australian Navy has formally retired its S-70B-2 Bravo Seahawk and AS350BA Squirrel helicopters in a ceremony at naval air station HMAS Albatross on December 1.

The Seahawk has been in the Fleet Air Arm inventory for 29 years and was operationally deployed in the Middle East throughout its entire service history.

The Squirrel has served for 33 years amassing an enviable record in both operations and training.

Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Chris Smallhorn said both aircraft had a proud record of service to the nation.

“Today we farewelled two magnificent aircraft with pride in our heart and tears in our eyes,” he said. “During the 1990-91 Gulf War the Squirrel carried out shipping surveillance, mine searches and top cover for helicopter boarding operations.

“It was also deployed in East Timor and on numerous disaster relief operations, including the 2001 ‘Black Christmas Bushfire’ crisis and the 2011 South East Queensland and Victoria floods.

“Over the last three decades the majority of naval aviators have trained in the Squirrel and many, including myself, have wonderfully fond memories of their time flying the ‘Cyril’ as many affectionately referred to the AS350.

“A machine that has served its country in peace and war and across three services, it’s a truly impressive chapter in Navy’s story,” Commodore Smallhorn said.

The S-70B-2 Bravo Seahawk was designed specifically for navy’s needs when it was introduced in 1989. Labelled a Role Adaptable Weapons System due to the flexibility it brought to the fleet, the S-70B-2 performed anti-submarine and surface operations in addition to secondary utility type missions.

The Bravo Seahawk has also fought fires, flood and extreme weather events along with conducting many challenging rescue operations at sea, one of the most famous and difficult being during the ill-fated the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

The retirement of the two aircraft was done as part of Ceremonial Divisions at HMAS Albatross and Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, took the opportunity to congratulate Albatross on the fine turn out.

“The work done here at Albatross is not always easy and it is very important for the nation,” he said.

“Whether you are a logistician, a maintainer or an operator; whether you are part of a project, a training organisation, or an enabling service your role is important in ensuring that the squadrons, commands, services and groups can achieve the operational outputs required of us by government and ultimately the Australian people. Thank you.”

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