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Global Operations

Op PACIFIC ASSIST 2015

Blackhawks on station in Vanuatu

30 March 2015

Australian Army members unfold the main rotor of an S-70 Blackhawk helicopter and prepare it for flight at Vanuatu's international airport during Operation Pacific Assist 2015.

Two Australian Army S-70 Blackhawk’s arrived in Vanuatu and were unloaded from a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster III during the late hours of Friday 20 March, 2015.

Assembled by ground crews the next day, the aircraft were technically prepared and commenced their first flight as part of Operation PACIFIC ASSIST 2015.

Aircraft technicians and avionic technicians which bring electrical and mechanical trades to Army aviation have been critical in the arrival and preparation of the two Blackhawk's.

Avionic technician, Corporal James Coy knows exactly what is required to prepare a Blackhawk for flight.

"We need to unfold the head or rotors, unfold the tail and make sure technical inspections are carried out," Corporal Coy said.

"It takes approximately 3 hours to unload both Blackhawk’s from the RAAF C-17A Globemaster III and then 6 to 10 hours to prepare them for flight."

Blackhawk pilot, Captain Nick Pound, is one of a small team eager to commence flying in support of the Australian Defence Forces assistance to the Vanuatu Government.

"We have all the pilots, loadmasters that form the aircrew for the aircraft," Captain Pound said.

Behind them, we have all the maintainers that are absolutely essential, as we can not fly without them."

The Blackhawk is a multi-role helicopter ideally suited to its primary role of providing air mobility for personnel and equipment.

Blackhawk's can also carry out aerial reconnaissance, observation, casualty evacuation and will play a vital role in supporting the Australian Defence Force's (ADF) mission in Vanuatu.

"We have the ability to land in a tight spot, we don't need a run way," Captain Pound said.

"We can easily fly straight down to the south islands without having to prove a surface to land."

"Ultimately, we can land where no one else can and provide a level of flexibility that no other air craft can."

The S-70 Blackhawk will play a significant role in Operation PACIFIC ASSIST 2015 providing humanitarian aid and reconnaissance to some of the more remote islands in Vanuatu.