725 Squadron History

725 Squadron Badge

725 Squadron has its origins in the Royal Navy (RN) where it was formed as a Fleet Requirements Unit on 27 August 1943. The Squadron's aircraft and operations were varied before moving to Cornwall to become an Air Target towing unit in August 1945. The Squadron was disbanded in December that year.

725 Squadron recommissioned in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Nowra as a Fleet Requirements and Communications Unit on 13 January 1958. Under the command of Lieutenant Commander John Brown, the Squadron flew a variety of aircraft including Douglas C47A Dakota, Auster J5-G Autocar, Hawker Sea Fury Mark 11, Fairey Firefly AS-5 and Fairey Gannet AS1. In May 1959, the Squadron's role was changed to Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training.

725 Squadron suffered its only fatality on 28 December 1959 when Sub Lieutenant LA Mauritz's Gannet crashed attempting to land at NAS Nowra. The Gannet's unusual twin engine configuration, driving two counter rotating propellers located one behind the other, enabled the Gannet to fly with only one engine engaged in order to conserve fuel and extend endurance, however, both engines had to be engaged when taking off or landing. Mauritz was attempting a single engine landing with tragic consequences.

Fairey Gannets on the ground at NAS Nowra. The Gannet's unusual twin-propeller design enabled it to fly with just one engine engaged.
Fairey Gannets on the ground at NAS Nowra. The Gannet's unusual twin propeller design enabled it to fly with just one engine engaged.

Part of 725 Squadron's responsibilities was to provide interception practice for Direction Officers training at HMAS Watson in the Radar Plot branch. The Squadron also provided aircraft for ships working up at sea near Jervis Bay performing varied tasks such as radar and communications calibration exercises through to mock attacks with multiple aircraft.

The Squadron was decommissioned on 31 May 1961 and absorbed into 724 Squadron.

725 Squadron recommissioned on 1 November 1962 flying the first two Westland Wessex 31A helicopters delivered to the RAN for ASW training and support to 817 Squadron, the Fleet Air Arm's (FAA) front line Wessex Squadron. 725 Squadron was eventually equipped with ten Wessex helicopters.

A 725 Squadron Wessex depoys a dipping sonar in Jervis Bay
A 725 Squadron Wessex deploys a dipping sonar in Jervis Bay.

On 10 February 1964 at 8:56pm, HMAS Melbourne (II) collided with HMAS Voyager (II) in one of the most tragic accidents in Australian naval history. The disaster resulted in the loss of 82 lives, all from Voyager. 725 Squadron participated in search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the collision.

The Squadron also embarked in HMAS Sydney (III) throughout the 1960s, providing anti-submarine escort duties during her many troop transport voyages to Vietnam, a responsibility it shared with 817 Squadron. The Wessexes were equipped with dipping sonar and an offensive armament of torpedoes and depth charges in its ASW role. While in the operational area, the normal routine was to have one Wessex screening the ship while another was fully armed and prepared on her deck. Shortly afterwards the RAN's FAA Squadrons adopted US Navy prefixes and 725 Squadron became HT725 Squadron indicating that it was classed as a rotary wing training unit.

HT725 Squadron personnel assist evacuees out of a Wessex helicopter during the Nowra floods in 1974.
HT725 Squadron personnel assist evacuees out of a Wessex helicopter during the Nowra floods in 1974.

The FAA became embroiled in industrial unrest in July 1974 when the Storeman and Packers Union black banned the RAN resulting in fuel shortages and flying restrictions. This became a serious, and even life threatening, issue the following month when heavy rain and flooding inundated the Nowra area. The FAA, including HT725 Squadron, was called upon for disaster relief operations but the fuel shortage gave rise to concerns about whether rescue efforts would have to cease. Eventually common sense prevailed and fuel tankers began to arrive allowing personnel from NAS Nowra to rescue some 352 people.

725 Squadron decommissioned on 27 December 1975.

In June 2011, the Government announced the acquisition of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters as replacements for the Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks. On 13 December 2012, it was announced that 725 Squadron would recommission as the new training squadron for the Romeo aircraft while 816 Squadron will be the operational support squadron. NUSQN 725 was stood up on 11 February 2013 under the command of Commander David Frost, RAN. The acquisition of the Romeo was for a ‘total package’ including training, technical and logistic support from the United States Navy (USN).

 

 

The RAN’s first two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters at the Lockheed Martin facility in Owego, New York. Mixed RAN/USN crews flew the two aircraft from New York to Jacksonville in December 2013.
The RAN’s first two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters at the Lockheed Martin facility in Owego, New York. Mixed RAN/USN crews flew the two aircraft from New York to Jacksonville in December 2013.

The Squadron’s aircrew and maintainers are training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville and Naval Station (NS) Mayport, both located in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. The first group of more than 30 maintainers left Australia on 8 March 2013 and began their training at NAS Jacksonville’s Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit on 1 April. By the time the Squadron returns to Australia in 2015, around 65 maintainers will be qualified to service and repair the Romeos.

NUSQN 725 Commanding Officer, Commander David Frost, RAN, (left) is welcomed aboard the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Jacksonville by commanding officer Commander Daryl Pierce, USN. Commander Pierce said it's an honor to work with a valued American ally from the Pacific Rim. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
NUSQN 725 Commanding Officer, Commander David Frost, RAN, (left) is welcomed aboard the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Jacksonville by commanding officer Commander Daryl Pierce, USN. Commander Pierce said it's an honor to work with a valued American ally from the Pacific Rim. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
NUSQN 725 crewmembers LEUT Aaron Abbott, LCDR Michael Robertson, LEUT John Flynn and LEUT Warren Oates in Jacksonville after completing Naval Air Training and Operation Procedures Standardization checks in July 2013.
NUSQN 725 crewmembers LEUT Aaron Abbott, LCDR Michael Robertson, LEUT John Flynn and LEUT Warren Oates in Jacksonville after completing Naval Air Training and Operation Procedures Standardization checks in July 2013.

The first aircrew were certified to fly the Romeo on 16 August 2013 and six days later, the Squadron moved into its own hangar space in building 1122 at NAS Jacksonville.

Carrying the tail number N48-001, Australia's first Seahawk Romeo completed its initial test flight at Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, on 26 June 2013. The helicopter successfully passed a range of tests during the 1 hour and 20 minute sortie including controllability, engine performance, vibration analysis and navigation. A second sortie later that day completed the 'Contractor Flight Acceptance' phase.
Carrying the tail number N48-001, Australia's first Seahawk Romeo completed its initial test flight at Sikorsky's production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, on 26 June 2013. The helicopter successfully passed a range of tests during the 1 hour and 20 minute sortie including controllability, engine performance, vibration analysis and navigation. A second sortie later that day completed the 'Contractor Flight Acceptance' phase.

The first RAN Romeo successfully completed its initial test flight on 26 June 2013 at Sikorsky’s production facility in Stratford, Connecticut, USA, before transferring to Lockheed Martin’s facility in Owego, New York, to be fitted with its mission systems and sensors.

One the RAN’s Romeos preparing to take off for a demonstration flight from NAS Jacksonville in January 2014. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
One the RAN’s Romeos preparing to take off for a demonstration flight from NAS Jacksonville in January 2014. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)

NUSQN 725 moved into its own hangar space in building 1122 at NAS Jacksonville on 22 August and took delivery of their first two aircraft on 12 December 2013. The two Romeos were formally accepted into RAN service by NUSQN 725 on 24 January 2014 at a ceremony attended by the Squadron, their American counterparts, family members, the Australian Defence attaché in Washington, Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore, and the commander of the USN 4th Fleet, Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris, USN.

NUSQN 725 members (left to right) LS Eammon O’Brien, LS Tom Clunie, PO Glenn Watson, PO Nathan Minett, LS Chris Hodgkinson and LS Liam Carruthers standing by the RAN’s No. 2 Romeo at the ‘In Service Date’ ceremony in Hangar 1122 24 January 2014. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
NUSQN 725 members (left to right) LS Eammon O’Brien, LS Tom Clunie, PO Glenn Watson, PO Nathan Minett, LS Chris Hodgkinson and LS Liam Carruthers standing by the RAN’s No. 2 Romeo at the ‘In Service Date’ ceremony in Hangar 1122 24 January 2014. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
NUSQN 725 commanding officer, Commander David Frost, presents a commemorative plaque to NAS Jacksonville’s Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit commanding officer, Commander Edgar Twining, in appreciation of the Unit’s training efforts. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
NUSQN 725 commanding officer, Commander David Frost, presents a commemorative plaque to NAS Jacksonville’s Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit commanding officer, Commander Edgar Twining, in appreciation of the Unit’s training efforts. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
Personnel from NUSQN 725 with a new Seahawk Romeo at the ‘In Service Date’ ceremony at NAS Jacksonville on 24 January 2014. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)
Personnel from NUSQN 725 with a new Seahawk Romeo at the ‘In Service Date’ ceremony at NAS Jacksonville on 24 January 2014. (Photo courtesy Jax Air News)

The next two aircraft arrived at Jacksonville in late February 2014 along with a non-flying MH-60R ‘Bromeo’ maintenance training aid airframe, the first of two, which will be used to train aircrew and maintainers. The Bromeo is a cost-effective way to expedite training free from the constraints of flying and operational commitments of in service aircraft. At around the same time another group of aviation maintainers arrived bringing the total of RAN FAA personnel at Jacksonville at that time to 95. That number increased to 112 by October when the first Romeo was delivered to Australia, and all had returned to Nowra by the end of the year.

In the last week of August the squadron participated in Exercise GREY FOX, the biggest missile firing exercise ever undertaken by the USN’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Atlantic. The Strike Wing was responsible for seven USN Romeo squadrons and was also supporting NUSQN 725 in the USA. The exercise involved the coordinated delivery of 29 Hellfire missiles, nine of which were fired by NUSQN 725, the most of any squadron across the Strike Wing. The ability to make such a significant contribution to the exercise was a testament to the dedication of both the deployed members of the squadron and the support they had received from their USN counterparts. The Squadron continued to make use of the opportunity to participate in large scale international exercises while in American waters.

Members from NUSQN 725 fit the first 'Hellfire'missile to be fired from the MH-60R Seahawk 'Romeo', in Florida, United States of America.   (from left) Petty Officer Aircraft Technician Avionics (ATV) Ray Warren, Chief Petty Officer ATV Phil Copley, Able Seaman (AB) ATV Josh Beaven, ABATV Josh Miller, Leading Seaman (LS) ATV Gian Archer, LSATV Mark Goodwin.
Members from NUSQN 725 fit the first 'Hellfire' missile to be fired from the MH-60R Seahawk 'Romeo', in Florida. (from left) Petty Officer Aircraft Technician Avionics (ATV) Ray Warren, Chief Petty Officer ATV Phil Copley, Able Seaman (AB) ATV Josh Beaven, ABATV Josh Miller, Leading Seaman (LS) ATV Gian Archer, LSATV Mark Goodwin. Just one month later NUSQN 723 would fire nine Hellfire missiles during Exercise GREY FOX.

The first Romeo arrived at HMAS Albatross on 14 October 2014 along with the Bromeo training airframe and moved into brand new facilities at the air station. They were transported aboard a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster from NAS Jacksonville and were followed by two more Romeos over the following three weeks. That same month the squadron surpassed 1,000 flight hours in the Romeos while undergoing training in the USA.


An MH60R Romeo being unloaded from a RAAF C-17A, HMAS Albatross.

The Romeo made its maiden Australian flight on 14 November 2014 when the crew of Lieutenant Commander Todd Glynn, Lieutenant Craig Castle and Leading Seaman Liam Carruthers flew the helicopter from Albatross to Sydney. The aircraft flew over Sydney Harbour and hovered over some of the city’s most iconic sites where Sydneysiders gave the helicopter a rousing reception.

L-R: A Navy MH60R 'Romeo' Seahawk helicopter flies in company with a S-70-B2 'Bravo' Seahawk helicopter over Fleet Base East. HMAS Success and the Navy's newest ship, HMAS Canberra, can be seen in the background. A Navy MH60R 'Romeo' Seahawk helicopter flies over the Sydney Opera House during its inaugural Australian flight.
L-R: A Navy MH60R 'Romeo' Seahawk helicopter flies in company with a S-70-B2 'Bravo' Seahawk helicopter over Fleet Base East. HMAS Success and the Navy's newest ship, HMAS Canberra, can be seen in the background. A Navy MH60R 'Romeo' Seahawk helicopter flies over the Sydney Opera House during its inaugural Australian flight.

The MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ became part of 725 Squadron in a recommissioning ceremony at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales on 11 June 2015.

Chronology of 725 Squadron history

Date
Event
27 Aug 1943
Formed as a RN Squadron
Dec 1945
Disbanded
13 Jan 1958
Recommissioned into the RAN at NAS Nowra as a fleet requirements and communications unit flying a range of aircraft
31 May 1961
Decommissioned at NAS Nowra
01 Nov 1962
Recommissioned at NAS Nowra with Wessex helicopters for ASW training
10 Feb 1964
HMAS Voyager disaster, 725 Squadron assists in search and rescue efforts
27 Dec 1975
Decommissioned at NAS Nowra
11 Feb 2013
Re-established as NUSQN 725
12 Dec 2013
Took delivery of the RAN's first two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters
11 Jun 2015
Recommissioned at HMAS Albatross

Commanding Officers of 725 Squadron

Assumed Command
Commanding Officers
13 Jan 1958
Lieutenant Commander JMW Brown
05 Jan 1959
Lieutenant Commander KM Barnett
20 Jul 1959
Lieutenant Commander P Goldrick
27 Jul 1959
Lieutenant Commander AE Payne
01 Nov 1962
Lieutenant Commander DG Hilliard
08 Nov 1962
Lieutenant Commander BF Matthews
06 Oct 1965
Lieutenant Commander N Ralph
19 Jun 1967
Lieutenant Commander PD Campbell
23 Oct 1967
Lieutenant Commander SBE Courtier
22 Jan 1968
Lieutenant Commander AG Whitton
05 Jan 1970
Lieutenant Commander DN Rogers
01 Jun 1970
Lieutenant Commander ES Bell
08 Feb 1971
Lieutenant Commander DN Rodgers
18 Oct 1971
Lieutenant Commander ES Bell
14 Oct 1972
Lieutenant Commander GR Rhorsheim
23 Jan 1974
Lieutenant Commander BJ Boettcher
17 Jan 1975
Lieutenant Commander WP James, DSC
11 Feb 2013
Commander DL Frost (as CO NUSQN 725)
04 Dec 2015
Commander MB Royals
25 Jan 2018 Commander SJ Buckham

Battle honours

  • VIETNAM 1967

Further reading

  • 'Flying Stations: A Story of Australian Naval Aviation', Australian Naval Aviation Museum, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1998.
  • 'Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force', Steve Eather, Aerospace Publications, Canberra, 1995.
  • 'Wings Across the Sea', Ross Gillett, Aerospace Publications, Canberra, 1988.
  • 'Australia's Navy in Vietnam', John Perryman and Brett Mitchell, Topmill Pty Ltd, Silverwater NSW, 2007.