Organisation change and unit merger at Ohakea
Wg Cdr Scott McKenzie (left) receives the 3 Squadron Wing Commander’s pennant from Wg Cdr Marcel Scott during the handover ceremony at Ohakea on 18 December.
On 18 December the final formal changeover from the existing 3 Squadron organisation to a new one, incorporating the new helicopters and how the squadron will operate in the future, took place. At a parade held in the Sir Richard Bolt Air Terminal at Ohakea, Wg Cdr Marcel Scott formally handed over command of the existing squadron to Wg Cdr Scott McKenzie, CO of the Helicopter Transition Unit, as the first commander of the reorganised squadron.
From that date the remaining six Iroquois and the three crews became a Flight of the new 3 Squadron, housed in the new complex on the northeast side of RNZAF Base Ohakea.
The following day the Chief of Air Force, AVM Mike Yardley, signed the certificate allowing the NH90 to assume all national contingency tasks covering SAR, civil emergencies, counter terrorism, police requirements and support to government agencies. The only exceptions to those duties were Special Tactics and Special Forces support at night, but these capabilities were certified early in the New Year. In the interim the remaining Iroquois and crews performed this role.
In his speech accepting command of the reorganised squadron, Wg Cdr Scott McKenzie spoke of the progress in integrating the two new helicopter types into RNZAF operations.
“We’ve ticked over 2000hr on each fleet so far. On the A109 the first Helicopter Basic Course for pilots and HCM was successfully run. It has already been refined and next year we will deliver two courses to dovetail in with the graduation of the Wings courses.
“There have been a number of tasks for our Governor General, Prime Minister and other dignitaries, and the army has realised the value of the A109 in a C3 [command, control and communications] role.
“The NH90 has supported the Pike River mine re-entry. The NH90 and crews have conducted the first cannabis recovery operation, responded to the Ashburton shooting and developed the national contingency capability.”
On the subject of future developments, he said, “In the first half of next year we will develop the counter terrorist capability with a package combining both aircraft types. This is an exciting time.”
AVM Yardley said the integration comes as the new aircraft develop new capabilities. “The NH90 will now become responsible for search and rescue missions, casualty evacuation in association with search and rescue, as well as transport for NZ Police and other government and military personnel for national security requirements,” he said.
“The Iroquois have performed these tasks well for many years, but it is now time for the NH90 to become the primary aircraft for search and rescue and national security requirements.
While we still have some way to go, the NH90 and A109 capabilities are developing well and are on track to be capable of undertaking all tasks currently performed by the Iroquois by the middle of next year.”
On 18 December Iroquois NZ3803 was detailed to make the flypast along with one of the new NH90 helicopters to mark the changeover. It was the last flight for this old helicopter as with 2.4hr on the airframe before a major phase service was required, it was time to put the old warhorse into permanent retirement.
- Report and photographs by Paul Harrison.
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