The Third Era
1972 – 14 Feb 1989
No. 9 Squadron’s Return to Australia
In late December 1971, No 9 Squadron departed Vung Tau, SVN. Yet again, HMAS SYDNEY embarked the No 9 Squadron helicopters, crew and maintenance complement. She sailed via Townsville (short stop-over) to Caloundra (near Brisbane) whence the helicopters flew off HMAS SYDNEY in formation and arrived at their new home, RAAF Base Amberley. Most of the squadron left Vung Tau on 17 December 1971 and flew to Townsville, joined with the HMAS SYDNEY complement and 4 RAR personnel and marched through the city.
No. 9 RAAF Squadron was now ‘home’ after 5 1/2 years of what was, in all aspects of a squadron’s conduct and performance, an ‘exceptional’ period of overseas combat Helicopter Support Operations in South Vietnam.
Review, Trial and Implementation of the RAAF Rotary Wing Modus Operandi
Significant work was undertaken to ensure the operational effectiveness of the RAAF Helicopter Capability post the SVN commitment period. For example, the ‘Shifting Sands’ Exercises throughout 198 0 to 1982 played an important part in all of this and almost every aspect of No. 9 Squadron’s methodology was impacted in some way; administration, maintenance, deployability, supply of fuels and spare parts, aircraft modifications and engineering, general support equipment (GSE) design and manufacture and aircrew and ground crew training. The following statement used by a staff college lecturer seemed particularly apt: ‘(successful) Military operations are only feasible with effective logistic support’. (sic)
The introduction of the Black Hawk helicopter into the ADF via No. 9 Squadron RAAF was obviously ‘in this mix’ as was the forthcoming increased use of night vision goggles/devices (NVG) by aircrew dictated by changing AS Army conduct.
‘Settling – in’ at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland and the issues related to numerous and ongoing deployments away from ‘home base’ resulting in the No. 9 Squadron nickname, ‘The Nomadic Ninth’.
Tropical Training (high density altitude – HDA) Exercises in PNG commence; flight training program produced.
Trials begin with Air Movements Trial and Development Unit (AMTDU), a RAAF Base Richmond based unit, to effect air transport methods for Iroquois helicopters by RAAF Hercules C-130 transport aircraft.
Contingency Planning and Training.
Helicopter support to the mapping of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea – ‘GADING’ series. A number of RAAF Iroquois helicopter accidents/incidents in these HDA environments; ARDU develops formal Take-off and Landing (TOLD) devices and procedures for Iroquois helicopters.
The instigation by AM C.F. Read CAS (1972 – 1975) to Court Martial an Air Force helicopter pilot (FLTLT G.P. Chalmers) after the crash in PNG of RAAF Iroquois A2-383 on 28 September 1974.
25 November 1978
During night operations NW of Port Augusta SA, Iroquois A2-770 impacted high terrain. All onboard including the squadron’s Commanding Officer WGCDR Peter Mahood were perished.
Exercise Shifting Sands series – Woomera, SA
Significant development of helicopter airmobile tactics and field deployment capability including Exercise Diamond Dollar 1987.
A robust relationship of No. 9 Squadron RAAF with Army 6th Brigade located at Enoggerra Barracks develops. (Horrie Howard’s Ninth!)
RAAF Headquarters Operational Command (HQOC) established the Helicopter Operations element of its Air Operations Centre. The aim was to provide improve operational effectiveness through centralised, resource management, tasking and higher quality support for ADF single service, Joint and Combined activities and training and, for RAAF rotary-wing support under Defence Aid to the Civil Power (DEFACP) and Defence Aid to the Civil Community (DEFACC) auspices to respond effectively to support requests during times of national and state emergencies and contingencies.
ADF Joint Operations given renewed emphasis and numerous RAAF helicopter aircrew and support personnel attend the raft of Australian Joint Warfare Establishment (AJWE) courses (as a requirement) at RAAF Williamtown.
For all aircrew and maintenance support personnel of the RAAF Iroquois helicopter capability (No. 5 SQN at Fairbairn, No. 9 SQN at Amberley and later, No. 35 SQN at Townsville), Standardised (helicopter type) Operational Procedures (SOP) and External Load Rigging and Lashing Manuals were introduced. Many successful operational and asset management benefits were derived from this especially when mounting Iroquois helicopter operations to support the large scale ADF and Combined exercises.
Sikorsky Black Hawk. Air and ground crew training and aircraft arrival at RAAF Amberley.
A government/Joint Chiefs of Staff decision initiated a transfer of ‘Battlefield’ Helicopters to Army. Air Marshal J.W. (Jake) Newham AO was Chief of Air Staff, RAAF at this time.
Exercise Diamond Dollar 1987 in FNQ – Single service activity (Army 6th Brigade) supported by RAAF and US Army Aviation. RAAF successfully validates aspects of its Tactical Doctrine and capability of supporting Army in remote locations through demonstrating comprehensive Air Support Planning and Execution, RF-111 reconnaissance support to Army ex Amberley, paradrop of 3RAR elms by large formation of RAAF Hercules C-130 ex Amberley, 1 OSU deployment and establishment of FOBs at remote civilian airfields to accommodate 24 hour combat-loaded RAAF C-130 and helicopter operations, RAAF airfield engineering analysis and landing, turning and parking mechanisms put in place to sustain and conserve activities, RAAF single service logistics management (SSLM) and, 24 hour aero-medical evacuation at the forward, tactical and strategic levels (necessitated in part by serious injury to personnel after a wire strike accident by an Army helicopter).
‘Winding – down’ RAAF No. 9 Squadron and some issues post – the decision to transfer ‘Battlefield’ Helicopters to Army. Air Marshal R.G. (Ray) Funnell AO, Chief of Air Staff, RAAF, 3 July 1987 – 2 October 1992.
17 November 1988
Ceremonial Review to Mark the Disbandment of No. 9 Squadron, conducted at RAAF Base Amberley (Sadly that night, there was suicide by an ex No. 9 Squadron Vietnam helicopter gunner).
Progressively throughout 1988, No. 9 Squadron re-located to Townsville to be incorporated in the 5th Army Aviation Regiment as part of the Transfer of ‘Battlefield’ Helicopters to Army.
Note. No. 5 Squadron provided helicopter-related air and ground training and contributed to the RAAF Iroquois Rotary Wing Capability until squadron disbandment at RAAF Base Fairbairn on 9 December 1989. WGCDR Geoff Farrell was Commanding Officer No 5 Squadron at disbandment.
14 February 1989
No. 9 Squadron disbanded and the transfer of its aircraft, personnel and equipment to the 5th Aviation Regiment (5AVNREGT) at Townsville, FNQ took place.
Chief of the Air Staff, AM Ray Funnell AO, redeployed the ex No. 9 Squadron personnel from 5AVNREGT to Air Force units.