Australia — Seahawks nest at HSF

Tucked away in scrub­land at HMAS Stir­ling is the Heli­copter Sup­port Facil­i­ty (HSF) which is staffed by a high­ly moti­vat­ed team of senior and junior sailors who are always ready for the chal­lenge of receiv­ing ‘unex­pect­ed’ rotary-wing air­craft.

Helicopter Support Facility at HMAS Stirling
816 Squadron per­son­nel and avi­a­tion sup­port staff at the Heli­copter Sup­port Facil­i­ty at HMAS Stir­ling, cur­rent­ly work­ing in sup­port of an Anti Sub­ma­rine War­fare (ASW) exer­cise held off of the coast of West­ern Aus­tralia.
Source: Aus­tralian Depart­ment of Defence
Click to enlarge

CPO Steven Sear­le, Man­ag­er HSF, said his team have achieved numer­ous mile­stones in demon­strat­ing their abil­i­ty to receive and sup­port Navy, Army, WA police and civil­ian heli­copters on very short notice. 

“This chal­lenges to ensure we are always ready to accept an air­craft at any­time with­out much warn­ing,” he said. CPO Sear­le said quite often the HSF receives Sea­hawks com­ing back from Gulf deploy­ments to con­duct main­te­nance, all in the space of two or three days. 

The HSF’s most recent mile­stone was to receive and sup­port three heli­copters from 816 Sqn or Exer­cise Dou­ble Trou­ble, which was the URE/WUP for HMA Sub­marines Collins and Dechaineux.” “The chal­lenge here was not only to accom­mo­date three Sea­hawks in the lim­it­ed hang­er space that we have, but also to sup­port their air and ground crews so the air­craft were oper­a­tional straight away,” he said. 

“We only had two weeks notice to sup­port the heli­copters and the 94 per­son­nel from 816 SQN who came with them.” 

Sup­port­ing 816 SQN for Collins and Dechainuex’s URE/WUP also meant jug­gling tons of logis­tics sup­plies, includ­ing col­lect­ing and accom­mo­dat­ing some 600 sonar buoys which were used against the submarines. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, the Sea­hawks brought four con­tain­ers of equip­ment and spares for the 15-days they par­tic­i­pat­ed in Ex Dou­ble Trouble. 

“With only a small staff of four includ­ing a Gap Year Stu­dent we worked around the clock to sup­port the Sea­hawks for this impor­tant ASW exer­cise,” he said. 

CPO Sear­le praised this small but ded­i­cat­ed team for their achieve­ments because the HSF has not sup­port­ed this many Navy heli­copters since 2007. 

“This was a mile­stone achieve­ment for us because this task only came up in the past cou­ple of weeks, now that we have three sub­marines ready for sea,” he said. 

“Nor­mal­ly, this kind of oper­a­tion is con­duct­ed dur­ing ASWEX in Novem­ber or Decem­ber, which gives us more time to build up to the task.” 

The 816 SQN sup­port task came hard on the heels of the HSF assist­ing HMAS Toowoom­ba with its avi­a­tion audit and a clean up of the hang­ers fol­low­ing flood­ing dur­ing a recent heavy deluge. 

On top of all this, CPO Sear­le is work­ing fever­ish­ly for an audit sched­uled for the end of July, while his team man­age the day to day chal­lenges of keep­ing the HSF ‘ready’.

The team includes ABATA Andrew Gilmour and ABATA Fil­ipo Macri, who are hard-pressed to man­age the many amend­ments to the fly­ing and main­te­nance man­u­als, which mea­sure more than two metres in height. 

“We have about 240 pub­li­ca­tions which we are cur­rent­ly in the process of con­vert­ing to soft copy,” said ABATA Macri. 

“We get 5cm of amend­ments for the main­te­nance man­u­als every fortnight.” 

“Amend­ing the man­u­al requires a 100% page check that just blows away our time for oth­er tasks. Some of the books are 400-pages and some man­u­als are four volumes.” 

ABATA Gilmour said some peo­ple think that it is real­ly ‘cruisie’ here because the HSF is on an island. 

“But the amount of work we do here is real­ly unbe­liev­able,” he said. 

“I thought I was going on a hol­i­day until I got here and was inun­dat­ed with jobs and tasks.” 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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