Aerospatiale AS350B Squirrel

Type
Light utility helicopter
Manufacturer
Aerospatiale
Number Ordered
6
First Delivered
14 May 1984
Last Delivered
10 July 1984
Length
10.91 metres
Height
3.14 metres
Weights 2100 kg
Speed 222 kph
Range
445 km
Crew
2 - 4
Engines 1 x 478kw (641 shp) Aerospatiale Turbomeca Arriel 1B Turboshaft
Armament
1 x MAG 58 7.62mm General Support Machine Gun

The first of six Aerospatiale AS 350BA Squirrels arrived at HMAS Albatross for naval service on 14 May 1984. The Squirrels were initially acquired to provide an interim embarked capability for the RAN’s Adelaide class guided missile frigates until the introduction of the Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks. The Squirrels proved to be a reliable, durable and relatively inexpensive embarked aircraft and continued to supplement embarked operations even after the introduction of the Seahawks. They also performed light utility and training duties.

A Squirrel engaged in flying operations with HMAS Success.
A Squirrel engaged in flying operations with HMAS Success.

The Squirrels underwent a number of modifications and improvements during their service including the installation of MAG 58 General Support Machine Gun (GSMG) Mounts arming them to perform an important role during the first Gulf War and later operations. Four Squirrels deployed to the Gulf War in 1991.

 

HMAS Sydney's embarked flight beside their aircraft during Gulf War 1

HMAS Sydney's embarked flight beside their aircraft (Stealth 1) during the First Gulf War.

The Squirrels’ later training role included the conversion of RAN pilots to rotary-wing flying and preparation of aircrew for operational flying. The aircraft also provided training support for ships’ flight deck teams.

 The 723 Squadron Helicopter Display Team proved a popular and familiar attraction at many public events over the years performing aerobatic displays in Squirrel helicopters. The 723 Squadron Helicopter Display team has performed at many major air shows and open days throughout Australia since its inception, including the Australian International Air Show at Avalon, Australia Day displays, Skyfire in Canberra, Temora Aviation Museum open days, RAAF/ADF airshows and HMAS Albatross open days to name a few.

 

The Squirrels’ RAN service came to an end in 2017, replaced by the Airbus EC-135 T2+.

The Squirrels proved a popular attraction at airshows and other festivals around Australia.

 

 

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