The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is carrying out trials for the Bay-class landing ship HMAS Choules, following the completion of an extended maintenance period which lasted more than 12 months.
HMAS Choules underwent flight trials involving a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter in mid-March 2023.
Conducted off the Queensland coast, the trials were important to develop the ship’s helicopter operating limits (SHOLs) for the safe take-off and landing of aircraft at sea.
RAN executive officer lieutenant commander Shaun Baldwin said: “This is the first time Choules has flown since going through a major upgrade package.
“Part of the package was the upgrade of exhaust stacks which has changed the movement of air over the flight deck.”
The trials, which were managed by RAN’s Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU), are important for the Bay-class ship to be able to operate aircraft.
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HMAS Choules, upon receiving a full set of SHOLs, will support take-off and landing operations for aircraft such as the Chinook multi-mission helicopter, to facilitate refuelling or transfer of stores for naval missions.
Baldwin added: “The aircraft is like a Swiss army knife. In a warfare stance, we can be supporting other ships doing anti-submarine warfare, and can refuel their aircraft.”
HMAS Choules is scheduled to participate in the exercise Talisman Sabre 2023, a biennial, bilateral military collaboration between Australia and the US.
The ship was previously in service with the UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) and was procured by the RAN in 2011.
A&P Australia received the in-service sustainment and support contract for HMAS Choules in 2015. The contract was extended in 2019 when the company became the principal systems integrator for the ship’s capability assurance project (CAP). More than 80 engineering modifications were installed across 44 capability enhancement areas, as part of the project to keep the HMAS Choules fit for operations until the early 2030s.