Monday, June 17, 2024

World first for Australian Navy officer

A Royal Australian Navy (RAN) officer has become the first non-US national to complete a renowned weapons and tactics course on the Seahawk helicopter in America. 

Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Topping’s recent graduation from the US Navy’s (USN) Seahawk weapons and tactics instructor course heralded a new chapter in cooperation and interoperability between the two countries.

The 10-week-course is renowned as the ultimate test for Seahawk MH-60R Romeo aviators in the USN, designed to advance the anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare skills of its participants. 

As the first RAN member and non-US national to attempt and graduate from the course, Lieutenant Commander Topping was grateful for the opportunity to showcase Australian skill sets while fully integrating with his USN counterparts. 

“Spending time with American aircrew was fascinating, their level of competence and professionalism was impressive,” Lieutenant Commander Topping said.

The program gave Lieutenant Commander Topping the opportunity to travel coast to coast and experience life in the USN. 

“Operating on dedicated, state-of-the-art ranges against real-world threats was as close to the real thing as you can get,” he said.

However, operating with a foreign military it is not always smooth flying.

“The subtle differences in accents and acronyms made it challenging at first. It felt as if we were speaking a different language at times,” Lieutenant Commander Topping said.

“It took a bit of adjusting over a few days, but after that integration became more or less seamless with some good humour thrown in.”

Lieutenant Commander Topping is excited the RAN will continue to send Romeo aircrew to the US course.

“It is mutually beneficial for both countries to engage in this type of high-end warfare training, working together to collectively improve our skill sets, align our tactics and ultimately integrate seamlessly when it matters,” he said.

The Seahawk weapons and tactics instructor course has provided Lieutenant Commander Topping with a wealth of knowledge and perspective to further advance warfare training within the Fleet Air Arm and RAN.

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