CANBERRA, Australia, July 26 (UPI)
Australia has commissioned the first MRH90 Taipan multirole helicopters and inducted 888 Squadron which will operate the aircraft.
The commissioning took place at Naval Air Station Albatross, near Nowra in New South Wales.
The ceremony at Albatross marks the end of three years of training, testing and trials for the MRH90 Taipan, the Australian version of the medium size twin-engine NHIndustries NH90, a statement from the military procurement agency Defense Materiel Organization said.
NHIndustries is owned by Eurocopter and AgustaWestland.
Commander of the Australian Fleet Rear Adm. Tim Barrett said the navy will use the Taipan for maritime support previously carried out by the retired Sea King helicopter, built by Westland Helicopters.
In September 2011, the DMO announced the Sea Kings would be withdrawn from service in December 2011. Their last flight was Dec. 15, 2011, when three Sea Kings flew over Sydney Harbor and across to Canberra, passing Lake Burley Griffin and the Australian War Memorial before landing at Nowra.
"The commissioning of 808 Squadron is a significant milestone for the navy as we formally welcome into service a new generation, maritime support helicopter that not only replaces the retired Sea Kings, but delivers new capabilities and a capacity to meet emerging requirements in the future," Barrett said.
The 808 Squadron previously existed during the 1950s when it operated fighter aircraft from the carriers Sydney and Melbourne.
"This is a significant day for the men and women of 808 Squadron, who have all worked hard over a long period preparing ourselves, our unit and our aircraft to join the Fleet," Barrett said.
The 808 Squadron is based at the Naval Air Station Albatross and its aircraft will operate from the amphibious and afloat support ships including the Success, Tobruk and Choules.
In the future, these aircraft will also operate from the navy's new 27,000-tonne Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious ships Canberra and Adelaide.
The army also will use the Taipan which is replacing its Blackhawk helicopters as a battlefield and special operations support helicopter, the DMO said.
In April, Australian and U.S. defense officials announced the joint development of a logistics tracking system for use in naval operations.
The Pacific Radio Frequency Identification System allows faster, more coordinated responses to humanitarian crises and other contingencies while laying the foundation for closer cooperation across the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark M. McLeod said.
In an interview with the American Forces Press Service earlier this month, McLeod, senior U.S. Pacific Command logistics director, said the system uses technologies commercial retailers rely on to track goods from the manufacturer to warehouses and into buyers' hands.
The U.S. Defense Department already uses barcode technology to monitor everything from washers to armored vehicles, he said. The new system gives logisticians the ability to track shipments more thoroughly throughout the transportation process and keep tabs on inventory stocks.
McLeod also said the new system supports closer U.S.-Australian interoperability, especially important given a U.S. defense strategy increasingly focused on the Asia-Pacific region.
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