The Royal Australian Navy's Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) is to conduct seven first-of-class flight tests before September.

In collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit and the Army Aviation Test and Evaluation Squadron, AMAFTU forms the Australian Defence Force's core test and evaluation capability for aircraft.

Last year, the team from the RAN unit concluded first-of-class flight trials for the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system (UAS) on the Bay-class landing ship HMAS Choules (L100).

The team has also completed trials of heavy-lift helicopter Chinook CH-47F on the amphibious ship, or Landing Helicopter Dock, HMAS Adelaide.

Royal Australian Navy AMAFTU officer in charge commander David Hutchinson said: “It’s been a busy year, but 2017 is shaping up to be even busier.

“We’ve already started preparing for first of class trials for both the Multi Role Helicopter MRH-90 Taipan and the MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’.”

This month, the AMAFTU unit will embark on the RAN’s Adelaide-class of guided missile frigate HMAS Melbourne to commence the Romeo trials.

After this, the Romeo team will move onto Canberra-class landing helicopter dock vessels HMAS Canberra in late next month.

The team will then join their Tiger and MRH-90 compatriots to continue the landing helicopter dock first of class trial.

From February to April, the AMAFTU team will have the Eurocopter Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter ARH, MRH-90 and MH-60R onboard the Canberra-class amphibious vessels, conducting first of class flight trials.

By the middle of this year, the MRH-90 will carry out first of class flight trials in the Anzac-class, while in August, the UAS will be onboard the Adelaide-class to conduct vertical take-offs and landing trials.

Eventually, in September, the team will conduct first of class flight trials on the EC-135 T2+, which is the new military training helicopter to replace the Squirrel.

Commander Hutchinson added: “Navy hasn’t got any experience with vertical take-off and landing, so the UASs trials in August will be valuable.

“We aren’t walking into it thinking it will be a box ticking exercise. We’ve also never taken a Tiger helicopter to sea before.”

Hutchinson further added: “For the Romeos we’re expanding on the ship helicopter operating limits they have at the moment and we’re looking to provide a lily pad capability for the MRH-90 on the Anzac-class.”

Located at Naval Air Station, Nowra, Australia, the AMAFTU comprises a small group of nearly 25 personnel who are capable of all levels of experimental flight tests.

Image: Royal Australian Navy’s AMAFTU officer in charge and commander David Hutchinson in front of an MH-60R Seahawk Romeo at 725 Squadron. Photo: courtesy of Royal Australian Navy.