Battlefield mobility in the amphibious domain
The Australian Defence Force’s battlefield aviation capability achieved a major milestone in the littoral domain recently, with the successful employment of Army’s battlefield mobility helicopters as part of an Amphibious Task Group (ATG). The Sea Series Exercise, held off the Queensland coast in May and June involved an Air Combat Element (ACE), made up of Army Aviation’s two battlefield mobility helicopter types, the MRH-90 Taipan and the CH-47F Chinook, operating from the decks of one of Navy’s two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships and the Landing Ship Dock (LSD), HMAS Choules.
At the height of the activity, the ACE was able to utilise four Taipans and a Chinook concurrently, marking a new level of maturity for the ADF’s amphibious warfare capability and a capability that will be expanded further in the near future to include Army’s Airbus Helicopters Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH).
The Sea Series exercise is designed to demonstrate and certify the ADF’s amphibious warfare capability and from a battlefield mobility helicopter standpoint, it marked the latest stage of Plan Kestrel, Army Aviation’s incremental Amphibious Capability Realisation Plan (ACRP).
The ACRP was formulated in 2011 to provide a graduated roadmap for placing Army helicopters aboard ships with the ultimate goal of being able to generate an Aviation Combat Element, a multi-type organisation overseen by a Regimental Headquarters structure.
Once the Tiger ARH completes its First of Class Sea Trials and is certified for amphibious operations within the ACE next year, the organisation will be capable of including various permutations of all three of Army’s advanced and sophisticated, digital rotary wing platforms – the CH-47F Chinook and MRH-90 Taipan from the 5th Aviation Regiment based at Townsville, and the Tiger from the 1st Aviation Regiment at Darwin.
Looking ahead the ACE of the future may possibly also include a range of rotary-wing platforms from other nations, as part of multi-national task groups. This is a concept which has already been demonstrated in the Land domain, most recently during Exercise Talisman Sabre in the SWBTA last year, when the 5th Aviation Regiment commanded a combined multi-national task force, which included 43 aircraft, both rotary and fixed wing and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), made up of seven different types and from three nations – the Australian and US Armies and the New Zealand Defence Force.