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Navy comments on ASPI's Navy aviation special report.

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Issued by Ministerial Support and Public Affairs, Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT Phone: 02 6265 3343, Fax: 02 62656946

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MSPA 063/09 Friday, 27 February 2009


“Navy welcomes public debate on the contribution of our combat helicopters in supporting the Fleet,” Vice Admiral Russ Crane, Chief of Navy, said today on the release of a Special Report on Navy Aviation from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute titled Australian naval combat helicopters - the future.

“The Seahawk is the heart of our current helicopter force, and while continuing to provide sterling service, they are now 20 years old and specialist replacement parts are becoming increasingly difficult to find to keep them flying,” he said. “Filling the gap left following the

termination of the Seasprite program is a high priority.

“While I value the Australian Strategic Policy Institute paper and its contribution to the debate, it does not present a complete discussion on all the issues. The report provides an overly simplistic examination of the current cost of Navy Aviation compared to Army Aviation and the Southcare Emergency Medical Service Bell 412 helicopter,” Vice Admiral

Crane noted.

“This is not an ‘apples to apples’ comparison due to the unique cost drivers involved in military aviation, particularly Navy Aviation. A more accurate comparison would be with like types of helicopters operated by other navies,” he said.

“Additionally, the Black Hawk operating costs cannot be compared to the Seahawk costs. The Black Hawk is a tactical transport aircraft used for moving troops in the field. The Seahawk carries complex sensors, weapons and communications for independent combat operations in the above and below water maritime environment that add significantly to the

basic cost of operating the helicopter.

“At the end of the day, an embarked helicopter is a critical element of a modern navy task group. I applaud any contribution to providing a better public understanding of our helicopter needs together with an appreciation of the resources involved and the skills required of our young aviators and technicians in operating these aircraft at sea,” Vice Admiral Crane said.

The Navy helicopter force consists of 16 Seahawks that are primarily employed as submarine hunters from Navy’s frigates, 6 Sea Kings used for Fleet support, and 13 Squirrel helicopters used for training Navy’s young aviators.

The Sea King helicopters will be replaced by the MRH-90 under Project AIR 9000 Phase 6. Defence will look to replace the Seahawk with a modern maritime combat helicopter to fly from Navy’s current Adelaide and ANZAC frigates and the future Air Warfare Destroyers under the planned Project AIR 9000 Phase 8.

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664