HMAS Ballarat’s embarked MH-60R Seahawk helicopter has played a valuable role with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group during a passage exercise in the Indian Ocean.

After the end of Exercise Malabar, the helicopter supported United States Ships Nimitz, guided-missile destroyer Sterett and guided-missile cruiser Princeton while embedded in Carrier Air Wing 17. 

Commanding Officer Ballarat Commander Antony Pisani said the Australian and US ships and aircraft operated together for several days, illustrating their maritime capabilities and promoting a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

“This activity was a highlight for the 187 men and women in Ballarat. For many, it was the first time they had seen a US Navy aircraft carrier,” Commander Antony Pisani said.  

“The participation of Ballarat's embarked MH-60R helicopter, which was operating within the Strike Group, demonstrates our shared mutual trust and respect, and the close bonds between our navies and nations.”

The Australian helicopter, of 816 Squadron Flight 3, operated with US Navy MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters. 

Operations Officer for Flight 3 Lieutenant Patrick McGuire said these exercises validated the interoperability of Australian MH-60R flights within a Carrier Strike Group. 

“Our daily exercise tasking, to defend the carrier through airborne force protection sorties, demonstrates the trust the Carrier Strike Group Commander has placed in our aircraft, aircrew and technical sailors to maintain the recognised maritime picture in all weather, day and night,” Lieutenant McGuire said.

Ballarat’s MH-60R contributes to surface and sub-surface surveillance, which enhances the tactical picture beyond the visual horizon, compiling data from active and passive sensors for the Carrier Strike Group and the Australian frigate.

“The surveillance serves to locate, identify, track and investigate potential threats to maritime security,” Lieutenant McGuire said.

“The MH-60R is a force multiplier and provides a crucial link between the Carrier Strike Group assets, such as their fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft, airborne early warning aircraft and surface units.

“MH-60R Flights will continue to be an integral capability within the task group construct and joint operations.” 

Senior Maintenance Sailor for Flight 3 Chief Petty Officer Aaron Fields said the maintenance team worked tirelessly during the deployment to ensure that Ballarat’s helicopter was available to carry out any mission required by Command.

“I am proud of the maintenance Flight 3 team and their efforts in tough working conditions during what has been not only a challenging deployment, but a challenging year,” Chief Petty Officer Fields said.