The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has developed its MH-60R Seahawk Simulator and Warfare Centre (SSWC) helicopter training facility as a centre of excellence for naval aviation, Tim Fish reports from New South Wales for MTSC.
Speaking to journalists during a media briefing at HMAS ALBATROSS in Nowra, NSW, on 21 February, Cdr Stan Buckham, commanding officer of 725 Squadron, which runs MH-60R helicopter training at the station, stated that this was a new standard – the aviation equivalent of the ‘ship-zero’ concept.
“It is a centre of excellence for one platform, all geographically located in one spot,” he commented. “Call it an aircraft-zero: we have simulators right here, we have maintenance, we have two squadrons together – they all feed the shared services, feed the flights at sea as well.”
The SSWC facility opened in December 2014 as the RAN took delivery of its 24 MH-60R helicopters. The way that training for the platform has been organised - co-locating simulation devices and classrooms – is a leap forward compared to the support mechanisms for the earlier S-70B-2 helicopter. Previous arrangements – with simulators not located nearby and with just one squadron combining both operations and training – meant that training for both aircrew and technical maintenance crews suffered, as aircraft availability was limited.
The RAN stated that previous S-70B-2 training was classroom- and instructor-driven, with access to some training aids and limited training in fault diagnostics. “Furthermore, to view the components and systems in the aircraft necessitated accessing an airframe on the squadron that was located over 1km from the classroom. Access to the training devices [for MH-60R] allows the removal and/or installation of components that, under S-70B-2 training [practices], required trainees to wait till scheduled or unscheduled maintenance required components to be replaced [….] Likewise, the increase in fault diagnostics training, particularly in avionic systems, has seen trainees completing their MH-60R training to a higher level of competence and in a shorter time period than was seen under S-70B-2 training.”
CAE supports the facility with the delivery of simulation and training equipment and systems, working in a closely integrated fashion with the RAN to provide the services that improve both air crew and maintenance training.
Cdr Buckham stated that, as well as training maintenance crews, there are 30 places for aircrew training and the SSWC “has the capacity and is built to train 10 pilots, 10 aviation warfare officers and 10 sensor officers,” with a split of about 60:40 between courses for new basic trainees and an advanced course for experienced officers requiring currency training.