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Anzac assist gets helicopters to Australia

It’s a case of Air Force helping Air Force as the Defence Force gets ready for one of the biggest exercises of the year.

12 July, 2023

Three NH90 helicopters will be able to flex their muscles in the major international exercise Talisman Sabre this month, thanks to being given a lift across the Tasman by the Royal Australian Air Force.

The helicopters were flown across the ditch inside C-17 Globemaster aircraft, which collected them from Base Ohakea.

Each helicopter had to be carefully packed away and cleaned to meet Australian standards. It was a big job.

Flight Lieutenant Hamish Shaw from No. 3 Squadron said the helicopters needed to be partly disassembled to fit into the aircraft.

“The main rotor blades come off, we remove the horizontal stabiliser, a tail rotor blade and a number of removals underneath the aircraft to get it into the correct configuration."

“On top of that we also prepare it for Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, so we’ve had to clean the aircraft and have them inspected prior to departure.”

An NH-90 helicopter is loaded and strapped down in the RAAF C-17, lit by the interior lights of the aircraft. In the background, the rear door is still open.
An NH-90 helicopter is loaded into the RAAF C-17, during the daytime. The helicopter is being loaded via the rear door and winched into position before it'll be secured for flight. Personnel in high visibility vests are in the aircraft and on the tarmac b

It takes two days for each helicopter to be prepared fully for departure. Once an NH90 is loaded into the C-17 it is secured using 34 strops and flown to a No. 3 Squadron maintenance and logistics team already set up in Australia to reassemble it, FLTLT Shaw said.

“We have dedicated transit cases for our main rotor blades – the horizontal and tail rotor blades – and they are loaded onto the C-17 along with other part of our pack-up including additional tooling and things that we need to assemble it at the other end.

“We are also supported by the 5th Aviation Regiment in Townsville, which has provided us with a facility to put each aircraft back together,” he said.

“It’s great the Australians are able to help get the helicopters over. It’s really simplified the process of taking part in this exercise.”

During Talisman Sabre the NH90s will integrate with a joint team made up of Americans and Australians as part of a task group.

“Primarily the NH90s will be providing battlefield mobility, so movement of troops and equipment as required. But the work will largely on how the exercise plays out and what the scenarios involve, FLTLT Shaw said.