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 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.

A former RAN sea Venom on disply in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at HMAS Albatross, Nowra.

A former RAN Sea Venom on display in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at HMAS Albatross, Nowra.

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.

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.

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).

A RAN Sea Venom with its wings folded at NAS Nowra. The folded wings conserved precious space on a crowded flight deck

A RAN Sea Venom with its wings folded at NAS Nowra. The folded wings conserved precious space on a crowded flight deck

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.

A 725 Squadron Wessex depoys a dipping sonar in Jervis Bay

A 725 Squadron Wessex depoys 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 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.

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 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).

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.

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.

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 then 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. 

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’s then 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)

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Minister for Defence, the Hon Kevin Andrews, addresses the Squadron on the occasion of its Commissioning on 11 June 2015 

Chronology

Date Event
27/08/1943        Formed as a RN Squadron
12/1945 Disbanded
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
11/06/2015 Squadron Commissioned

Commanding Officers

From      Commanding Officer
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

Battle Honours

  • VIETNAM 1967

Further Reading

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