725 Squadron History
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 re-commissioned 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 a Douglas C47A Dakota, Auster J5-G Autocar, Hawker Sea Fury Mark 11, Fairey Firefly AS-5s and Fairey Gannet AS1s and added De Havilland Sea Venom F.A.W. Mk 53s to its complement shortly afterwards. 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 L.A. 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.
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.
Early in 1958, the Squadron’s Sea Venoms also started to provide targets for air-to-air live firing practice along with the Sea Furies and Fireflies. The Sea Venoms could tow target at speeds of up to 250 knots (over 460 kph) whereas the Sea Furies and Fireflies could only manage 140 knots (about 260 kph).
The Squadron was de-commissioned on 31 May 1961 and absorbed into 724 Squadron.
725 Squadron re-commissioned 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.
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 1960’s providing anti-submarine escort duties during her many troop transport voyages to Vietnam, a responsibility it shared with 817 Squadron. The Wessex’s 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.
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 de-commissioned 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).
NUSQN 725 is scheduled to formally recommission in early 2015. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Minister for Defence, the Hon Kevin Andrews, addresses the Squadron on the occasion of its Commissioning on 11 June 2015
|27/08/1943||Formed as a RN Squadron|
|13/01/1958||Re-commissioned into the RAN at NAS Nowra as a fleet requirements and communications unit flying a range of aircraft|
|31/5/1961||De-commissioned at NAS Nowra|
|1/11/1962||Re-commissioned at NAS Nowra with Wessex helicopters for ASW training|
|10/02/1964||HMAS Voyager disaster. 725 Squadron assists in search and rescue efforts|
|27/12/1975||De-commissioned at NAS Nowra|
|11/02/2013||Re-established as NUSQN 725|
|12/12/2013||Took delivery of the RAN’s first two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters|
|04/12/2014||Last Flight in Jacksonville, USA|
|30/01/2015||Moved to new 725/816 combined facility NAS Nowra|
|13/01/1958||Lieutenant Commander J.M.W. Brown|
|05/01/1959||Lieutenant Commander K.M. Barnett|
|20/07/1959||Lieutenant Commander P. Goldrick|
|27/07/1959||Lieutenant Commander A.E. Payne|
|01/11/1962||Lieutenant Commander D.G. Hilliard|
|08/11/1962||Lieutenant Commander B.F. Matthews|
|06/10/1965||Lieutenant Commander N. Ralph|
|19/06/1967||Lieutenant Commander P.D. Campbell|
|23/10/1967||Lieutenant Commander S.B.E. Courtier|
|22/01/1968||Lieutenant Commander A.G. Whitton|
|05/01/1970||Lieutenant Commander D.N. Rogers|
|01/06/1970||Lieutenant Commander E.S. Bell|
|08/02/1971||Lieutenant Commander D.N. Rogers|
|18/10/1971||Lieutenant Commander E.S. Bell|
|14/10/1972||Lieutenant Commander G.R. Rhorsheim|
|23/01/1974||Lieutenant Commander B.J. Boettcher|
|17/01/1975||Lieutenant Commander W.P. James, DSC|
|11/02/2013||Commander D.L. Frost (as CO NUSQN 725)|
|TBA||Commander M.B. Royals|
- VIETNAM 1967
- Australian Naval Aviation Museum, Flying Stations: A Story of Australian Naval Aviation, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1998
- Eather, Steve, Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force, Aerospace Publications, Canberra, 1995
- Gillett, Ross, Wings Across the Sea, Aerospace Publications, Canberra, 1988
- Perryman, John and Brett Mitchell, Australia’s Navy in Vietnam, Topmill Pty Ltd, Silverwater NSW, 2007