723 Squadron

723 Squadron Badge

723 Squadron is a multi-role squadron operating the AS 350BA Squirrel and Bell 429 Global Ranger Helicopters. These Helicopters are utilised for Aircrew training, Utility duties, and support of Air Capable Ships within the Fleet.

Today, the Squadron's duties include limited fleet support in range clearances and flight deck procedural training, and some embarked support on major warships.

The Squadron is the RAN's institution for all RAN helicopter training and as such, its primary role is to conduct Pilot Rotary Conversion (PRC), Aviation Warfare Officer Rotary Conversion (AvWORC) and Aircrewman Rotary Conversion (ARC).

Royal Australian Navy Training and utility helicopter, Bell 429 flies over the fleet during the 1913 Fleet Entry re-enactment.
Royal Australian Navy training and utility helicopter, Bell 429 flies over the fleet during the 1913 Fleet Entry re-enactment.

Squirrels operated from all helicopter capable RAN ships during the 1991 Gulf War. Sporting a new grey camouflage paint scheme they were fitted with updated avionics and a door mounted machine gun. Employment included shipping surveillance, top cover for helicopter boardings, mine searches and light logistics support.

Over the decades, 723 Squadron has assisted numerous activities in support of the civil community. These include support during the 'Black Christmas Bushfire' crisis that swept through New South Wales from Christmas Eve 2001 until mid January 2002. Squirrels were tasked with the provision of logistic support to firefighters on the ground, fire spotting and as transport for the Air Attack Supervisor. 723 Squadron flew a total of 218.6 hours during the crisis. 723 Squadron also provided assistance during the 2011 floods in South East Queensland and Victoria, and the 2012 floods in the Wagga Wagga region.

More recently, 723 Squadron was fortunate to be able to embark Squirrels onboard a number of Major Fleet Vessels during significant periods for the Navy. In 2013, two Squirrels embarked in the Spanish Replenishment Ship, SPS Cantabria, during the vessels year long deployment to Australia which coincided with the RAN International Fleet Review. This was the first time that RAN Fleet Air Arm Aircraft had embarked long term, and integrated fully into a foreign Navy vessel. In 2015, a Squirrel embarked in HMAS Anzac, during the ships Operation NORTHERN TRIDENT 'around the world' deployment, in support of 'Centenary of Anzac' celebrations and activities at Gallipoli. Both of these embarkations provided the challenge to operate away from the Squadron, and the opportunity to consolidate both Aircrew and Maintainer training in the maritime environment.

Taipan 860 conducting a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) on Cantabria's flight deck.
Taipan 860 conducting a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) on Cantabria's flight deck.

Helicopter Display Team

The 723 Squadron Helicopter Display Team was formed out of a need to showcase Naval Aviation to the public through recognised events. Such events include airshows, base open days as well as public events of significance.

723 Squadron Helicopter Display Team
723 Squadron Helicopter Display Team

Whilst there have been many single helicopter displays from various types flown in the past, 723 Squadron saw this as an opportunity to develop a Pairs Display. The current display was developed and based upon the Royal Navy's 'Black Cats' Lynx display, and has been incorporated into the Squadron Flying orders such that it will be available to the Squadron for years to come.

Two Qualified Helicopter Instructors (QHI's) fly the display with another Aircrew member performing co-pilot duties throughout the display. The duties performed by the co-pilots are not unlike that of a rally drivers navigator, calling the sequence of manoeuvres for the pilot. Co-pilots also assist in keeping the other aircraft sighted and checking the engine instruments during the display.

The 723 Squadron Helicopter Display team has performed at many major airshows and open days throughout Australia since its inception, including the Australian International Airshow at Avalon, Australia Day displays in Sydney, Skyfire in Canberra, Temora Aviation Museum open days, the RAAF / ADF airshows, the HMAS Albatross open days to name a few.

Prior to being approved for public display the display team conducted months of training and work-ups. Initially starting with one aircraft flying the routine. Once the QHI's were familiar with the routine a second aircraft was added, and the sequence was slowly built into the current display. Final approval for public viewing was given by the then COMAUSNAVAIRGRP, CDRE Geoff Ledger, during a display at Nowra. Once public display approval had been given, the team had conducted a minimum of 50 practices.

A pair of No 723 Squadron's AS 350BA Squirrel helicopters conduct a flying display at the 2017 Australian International Airshow.
A pair of No 723 Squadron's AS 350BA Squirrel helicopters conduct a flying display at the 2017 Australian International Airshow.

When the display team are tasked to perform at a venue, the Squadron will usually deploy with three aircraft (2 + 1 spare) and a team of maintainers. Of these maintainers one will be a Chief Petty Officer Responsible Engineering Officer (CPO REO), who is responsible for ensuring the aircraft are ready for the display. Without the combined efforts of the maintenance personnel and the aircrew, the display would not be possible.

The 723 Squadron display team is always striving to put on a professional, polished display that will reflect positively upon the Fleet Air Arm. With excellent reviews from many airshows the Squirrel Display is now amongst the premier displays in Australia.

The formation of the 723 Squadron Helicopter Display Team offers significant public relations, public information and promotional opportunities for the ADF and RAN in particular.