Fleet Air Arm (RAN)

Fleet Air Arm (RAN)

The Fleet Air Arm (more formally known as the Australian Navy Aviation Group) is the operational part of the Royal Australian Navy responsible for the operation of aircraft aboard ship. The FAA is currently an all helicopter force, operating four separate types of helicopter in both the anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship roles.


During the Second World War, several squadrons of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm were manned primarily by Australian personnel. Following the war, the Royal Australian Navy determined that it was necessary to have its own air arm. As a consequence, the Fleet Air Arm was formed on July 3 1947 by order of the Commonwealth Defence Council to operate aircraft for the RAN. The primary plan was for the purchase of two aircraft carriers and the aircraft for them, and for the construction of the necessary shore based support facilities. HMAS "Albatross", the former RAAF base at Nowra in New South Wales, was commissioned in August 1948 as the FAA's main airbase, while HMAS "Sydney", a former light fleet carrier of the Royal Navy, was commissioned on December 16 1948. In her passage from the UK, "Sydney" also transported the RAN's first two squadrons of aircraft (805 Squadron with Sea Furies and 816 Squadron with Fireflies), forming the 20th Carrier Air Group. A further group, 21st Carrier Air Group, was formed in 1950 through the raising of 808 Squadron with Sea Furies and 817 Squadron with Fireflies. During 1951 and 1952, "Sydney" operated as part of the United Nations taskforce during the Korean War. In 1952, HMS "Vengeance" loaned from the Royal Navy was commissioned as the RAN's second operational carrier, HMAS "Vengeance". "Sydney" continued in her operational role until 1955, when she was replaced by HMAS "Melbourne". The delays in "Melbourne" being delivered were due to her being reconstructed with all modern advances (including angled flight deck, steam catapult, and mirror landing aid), enabling her to operate jets. At that time, "Melbourne" embarked the main carrier air wing, with "Sydney", unmodified and thus unable to operate jet aircraft, becoming a training ship; "Vengeance" was returned to the UK. Also, the FAA took delivery of its first jet aircraft, with Sea Venoms replacing the Sea Furies. "Sydney" was placed in reserve from 1958 until 1962, when she was recommissioned as a fast transport with no aviation facilities. Although "Melbourne" and her air group played no role in the Vietnam War, Australian naval aviators saw action as part of Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam between 1967 and 1971.

Following the Vietnam War, cutbacks saw "Sydney" decommissioned in 1973. "Melbourne" continued in service, ultimately operating a mixture of Skyhawks, Trackers and helicopters before she too was paid off on 30 June 1982. The Liberal government intended to replace "Melbourne" by purchasing HMS "Invincible" from the UK in 1982. This carrier was to have been named HMAS "Australia" and would have operated an air group of either AV-8B Harriers or Sea Harriers and helicopters. This sale was cancelled by the British government following the Falklands War, however, and the Australian Government rejected the offer of the obsolete HMS "Hermes" as a substitute. In December 1982 the Defence Force Development Committee recommended that the Government not purchase a replacement carrier, though the Government deferred a decision on this matter until after the upcoming election. The defeat of the Liberals by Labor in the 1983 Federal election led to a decision not to purchase a replacement for "Melbourne". With no aircraft carrier, fixed wing aviation in the RAN ended on 30 June 1983, though rotary wing aviation continued. [Peter Jones, 'Towards Self-Reliance' in David Stevens (ed) (2001). "The Royal Australian Navy - A History". Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195555422. Pages 227-228.]

FAA Today

Today, the Fleet Air Arm is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the RAN's helicopter force. Helicopters are operated from the frigates of the "Adelaide" and "Anzac" classes, and from the RAN's amphibious and support ships.

Current squadrons

RAN squadrons follow the same numbering system as those of the Royal Navy, with operational units numbered from 800 onwards, and training units numbered from 700 onwards:
*723 Squadron - Aerospatiale AS 350BA Ecureuil (Squirrel) and Agusta A109: 723 Squadron is the Fleet Air Arm's primary helicopter training unit. It is employed as a conversion unit for newly qualified pilots to learn to fly helicopters, and also provides aircraft and crews for ship's flights on the RAN's hydrographic vessels. In addition, 723 Squadron provides the RAN's helicopter display team.
*816 Squadron - Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk: 816 Squadron provides Seahawk helicopters for use aboard "Adelaide" class guided missile frigates.
*817 Squadron - Westland Sea King Mk 50: 817 Squadron is a land based squadron operating the Sea King helicopter in the medium lift role. 817 Squadron also has responsibility for maintaining and operating aircraft on the "Kanimbla" class, HMAS "Tobruk" and HMAS "Success".

The "Kanimbla" class vessels are also capable of operating S-70A Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook and UH-1 Iroquois helicopters from the Army's 5th Aviation Regiment and 171st Aviation Squadron, and regularly train with these aircraft during amphibious exercises.

Current Aircraft

Since 2000, when the last pair of HS748s were retired, the Fleet Air Arm has been an entirely rotary winged force. Air defence of the fleet is primarily the task of the "Adelaide" class guided missile frigates, armed with the SM-2 Standard SAM; these are supported when possible by the F/A-18 Hornets of the RAAF.

The most numerous aircraft is the Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk, with sixteen operated by 816 Squadron; these operate primarily in the ASW role from the "Adelaide" class frigates, but have a supplementary role in search and rescue and troop transport. In 2001, eleven SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters were purchased to operate from the "Anzac" class frigates, which led to the reformation of 805 Squadron (which had been the FAA's last fast jet squadron). The project to upgrade these aircraft and introduce them into service proved unsuccessful, however, and was cancelled in March 2008. The Sea King provides the fleet's medium lift capability, but also performs over the horizon targeting for anti-surface warfare, and search and rescue capability. Prior to 1982, the Sea King was also used in the ASW role from the aircraft carrier "Melbourne". The Squirrel was used in an operational capability aboard the guided missile frigates prior to the purchase of the Seahawk. Now, they are used by 723 Squadron for conversion training, as well as deployment from the RAN's hydrographic vessels.

Standard table|0! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes
Sikorsky S-70
Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk
Operated by 816 Squadron
Westland Sea King
Transport Helicoper
Westland Sea King MK 50A
1 loss over Island Nais on 2 April, 2005 during aid contributions for 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami [cite news | first=Paul | last=Daley | coauthors= | title=The fatal journey of Shark 02 | date=2007-04-03 | publisher= | url =http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=257258 | work =The Bulletin | pages =22-29 | accessdate = 2008-01-10 | language = ]
MRH 90
Transport Helicoper
TTH: Tactical Transport Helicopter
6 more to be delivered.
Eurocopter Ecureuil
Training helicopter
Squirrel AS350BA
Operated by 723 Squadron
Agusta A109
Training helicopter
Augusta A109E
Operated by 723 Squadron [ [http://www.adf-serials.com/n42.shtml ADF Serials Agusta N42- list] retrieved 2007-08-30.]

Future Aircraft

The Royal Australian Navy will replace its aging Sea King helicopters with 8 marinised MRH 90 helicopters by 2010. These aircraft are to be purchased as part a joint Army-Navy purchase totalling 46 helicopters. [cite web |url=http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/NelsonMintpl.cfm?CurrentId=5738|title=MR90H to replace Sea King and Blackhawk helicopters|accessdate=2007-01-11 |date=2006-06-19|work=(media release)|publisher=Office of the Minister of Defence]

Under current plans the Royal Australian Navy's "Canberra" class amphibious vessels will operate up to 16 Army or Navy helicopters. While the ships are potentially capable of operating F-35B (STOVL) aircraft, the Australian Government does not currently intend to purchase this variant of the F-35 design, and the ability to operate STOVL aircraft was not a criterion in the tender which was released for the ships. [cite web |url=http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/NelsonMintpl.cfm?CurrentId=5597|title=Requests for Tender for $2 billion Amphibious ships released to Australian industry|accessdate=2007-01-11 |date=2006-05-02|work=(media release)|publisher=Office of the Minister of Defence]

Aircraft of the FAA

*1917 to 1919
**Sopwith Baby: One aircraft only. 1917
**Sopwith Pup: Two aircraft. 1917-1918
**Sopwith Camel: Two aircraft. 1918
**Sopwith 1½ Strutter: One aircraft. 1918
**Fairey Firefly
**Hawker Sea Fury
**De Havilland Sea Venom
**McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk
*Other Carrier Borne Aircraft
**Supermarine Sea Otter
**Fairey Gannet
**Grumman S-2 Tracker
**Bristol Sycamore
**Westland Wessex
**Westland Scout
**Bell UH-1B Iroquois
**Bell 206B-1 Kiowa
**Westland Sea King Mk 50
**Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk
**Kaman SH-2 Seasprite
**Agusta Westland A109E
**MRH 90 (on order, deliveries to be complete by 2010)
**Eurocopter Ecureuil or (Aerospatiale Squirrel)
*Land Based Aircraft
**CAC Wirraway
**De Havilland Tiger Moth
**Supermarine Spitfire
**De Havilland Vampire
**Auster Autocar J5G
**Douglas DC-3 Dakota
**CAC/Macchi MB.326H
**Hawker Siddeley HS.748
**AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile
**AGM-119 Penguin (purchased but not yet in service)
** GAF Jindivik target drone


ee also

*List of Australian Fleet Air Arm flying squadrons
*Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm

External links

* [http://www.navy.gov.au/w/index.php/Aviation_Group Navy Aviation Group]
* [http://www.faaaa.asn.au/ Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia]
* [http://www.harrier.org.uk/history/history_SHARdownunder.htm Sea Harriers Down Under]
* [http://www.helis.com/database/go/au_royal_australian_navy.php RAN helicopter history] at Helis.com
*cite web |url=http://www.navy.gov.au/w/index.php/Aircraft_Histories |title=Aircraft Histories |accessdate=2002-08-31 |publisher=Sea Power Centre - Australia

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