Three crewmembers of a Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopter are safe after ditching their helicopter in the Philippine Sea during a routine flight overnight.
The aircraft was operating from HMAS Brisbane as part of a Regional Presence Deployment with HMAS Warramunga, when the crew conducted an emergency landing in the water.
HMAS Brisbane deployed sea boats and rescued the crew approximately 20 minutes later. The crew received first aid for minor injuries upon their return to HMAS Brisbane.
Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, commended the crews of both ships involved for their quick response to the emergency.
“The successful rescue is credit to the devotion to duty and skill of the officers and sailors of HMAS Brisbane,” Rear Admiral Hammond said. “Their immediate actions ensured the survival of the aircrew, validating the significant training undertaken in the event an emergency of this nature occurs.”
Both ships continue to search the area for any debris, which will aid in determining the cause of the incident.
“With the aircrew safe, investigating the circumstances that led to the helicopter ditching is the priority at the moment,” Rear Admiral Hammond said. “As a precaution, we have temporarily paused flying operations of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet.”
Defence says it is reviewing the impact of the incident on Brisbane and Warramunga’s current deployment.
The RAN currently operates 24 MH-60R Seahawks - including the helicopter involved in this incident - in the naval combat helicopter role, sufficient to provide eight flights (of a single helicopter) at sea and concurrently deliver shore based training and operational tasking. They are shore-based at HMAS Albatross, near Nowra and serve with 725 and 816 Squadrons.
The US State Department recently approved the potential sale of an additional 12 MH-60R Seahawk naval combat helicopters to the RAN, valued at US$985 million.
The additional helicopters, while still able to be reconfigured for the ASW role if required, are being acquired to replace the Navy’s current NHI MRH 90 Taipans in the shipboard logistics role.