differences and smooth troubled waters.
So, why the change? No.6 Squadron was reformed (see a Brief History of No.6 Squadron, this issue) to overcome the difficulties in providing effective command, control and supervision of Seasprite operations, training and maintenance at Whenuapai. With 18 aircrew, 55 maintenance personnel and six support staff the Seasprite’s specialized operations and technical aspects had diverged sufficiently from its parent Squadron (No.3 Squadron) to warrant its own Squadron status. In addition the geographic separation of the two Squadrons aggravated command challenges. Its reformation on 31 October 2005 continues the Squadron’s strong maritime heritage.
Despite the new Squadron’s establishment as a separate entity it will continue to work alongside No. 3 Squadron, particularly since both Squadrons have the same initial training programme. No.6 Squadron pilots are well immersed in Air Force culture, methods and philosophy before they join the maritime Squadron says LT CDR Gilchrist. And the two Squadron’s will continue to exercise together in mountain flying exercises such as the regular Blackbird/Bluebird Exercises as each squadrons very full flying programmes allow.
It’s hard to say what effect the Air Force’s proposed purchase of NH90 helicopters will have on No.6 Squadron’s operations says the CO. While it will influence the way the whole Air Force operates it’s unlikely to have an immediate effect on embarked operations, he says. A more immediate effect may be the decision, due to be announced later this year, on the replacement for the Air Force’s obsolete Sioux training helicopters. The new Light Utility Helicopter could help the transition from training platform to Seasprite says LT CDR Gilchrist.
The Squadron will be following No.3 Squadron’s lead in developing its night flying capability - it has approval to start trials with Night Vision Goggles (NVG), initially using a single Seasprite crew. NVGs will ‘enhance the way we operate at sea,’ says LT CDR Gilchrist. The Squadron’s most significant operation to date had to be the navy’s deployment of frigates to the Gulf in 2002-2003 but the Navy’s visits to exotic Asian ports such as Shanghai and Vladivostok are also a highlight. ‘The Navy tends to visit places the Air Force would never go to,’ says LT CDR Gilchrist ‘and the Squadron’s crews are usually buzzing with excitement about the places they have been able to visit.’ This year HMNZS Te Kaha’s programme includes visits to Australia, Yokohama, Pusan, Hong Kong and New Caledonia. HMNZS Te Mana will spend up to a month in Indian waters and will visit Thailand on its return. So the old saying is at least partly true - join the Navy and see the world!
A versatile and powerful helicopter, the Seasprite is much more than a simple addition
BELOW: A wasp helicopter: these were later replaced by the Seasprites.
BELOW: No. 6 Squadron CO LT CDR Keith Gilchrist.
to the frigate’s firepower. It extends (beyond the horizon) the frigate’s surveillance capability and is able to react quickly to new tasks or threats. The aircraft also has a significant under-slung load capability, useful in resupplying remote sub Antarctic islands. At the end of February the Seasprite’s Maverick missile
system will be tested in a live-firing exercise in Australian waters.
Its sensors (radar, ESM and FLIR) can cover a huge area and the Seasprite itself has an effective range of 75-85 nm and the ability to ‘loiter’ for up to two hours, or to fly up to 400 nm in a straight line e.g. delivering an injured
NO.6 SQUADRON PARADE
T o c e l e b r a t e t h e s q u a d r o n ’ s r e f o r m a t i o n a p a r a d e w i l l b e h e l d : Date - 16 March 2006 Time - 1000 hrs kick off Place – No.6 SQN Hangar, RNZAF Base Auckland, Whenuapai Reviewing officer - TBA (hoping for an ex-6 SQN CO) Contact No.6 SQN Orderly Room to register your interest
(09) 417 7000 ext 7045/7717
AFN67 FEBRUARY 06