Starting the action was US Army Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopter (18-03200) 83200 of the 1st Battalion 229th Aviation Regiment. It completed an engine run and then departed to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) and was heard to use the radio callsign "Serpent 200".
Then, four US Army Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters started up and completed engine runs before making a spectacular four-ship flight from Rockhampton Airport to Camp Rocky and then also to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA). The four Blackhawks were identified as (13-)20592, (12-)20539, (**-)20401 and (**-)20577 all of the 2nd Battalion 158th Aviation Regiment 'Warhawks' and flew as "Bigfoot 92 Flight".
It is believed that both (13-)20592 and (12-)20539 later returned to Rockhampton Airport.
Soon after the four Blackhawks departed, a further three US Army Sikorsky UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters also departed Rockhampton Airport for the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA). They were believed to be (90-)26283, (90-)26292 and (89-)26181 all of the 1st Battalion 52nd Aviation Regiment and flew as "Dustoff 08 Flight".
The three Blackhawks were also believed to have later returned to Rockhampton Airport.
As mentioned previously, five Boeing AH-64E Apache and eight Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters were unloaded from a ship at the Gladstone Port during the last week. Their rotor blades were re-attached and test flights were conducted before they started taking to the air last weekend.
Research reveals these 13 helicopters are of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, USA.
The UH-60M Blackhawks are of the 2nd Battalion 158th Aviation Regiment 'Warhawks', while the UH-60L Blackhawks are of the 1st Battalion 52nd Aviation Regiment. The AH-64E Apaches are of the 1st Battalion 229th Aviation Regiment. Altogether, they have formed Task Force 'Tigershark'.
Meanwhile, in amongst the US Army helicopter departures, the two United States Navy (USN) Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk (Knighthawk) helicopters that have been identified as 167833 / NF-611 and 167871 / NF-621 of the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 (HSC-12) "Golden Falcons" also departed Rockhampton Airport for Shoalwater Bay flying as "Hunter 71 Flight".
As posted below, Knighthawk 167833 / NF-611 had earlier featured at the Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 (TS19) Open Day at Rockhampton Showgrounds.
HSC-12 Squadron are presently deployed and assigned with CVW-5 on board USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) which is currently docked in Brisbane.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that earlier on Saturday 6 July, United States Navy (USN) Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk (Knighthawk) helicopter 168546 / RB-05 flying as "Knightrider 05" also popped into Camp Rocky and then Rockhampton Airport. It then departed back to the East, possibly to the USS Wasp (LHD-1) on which it is presently deployed. The Knighthawk is flown by the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC-25) "Island Knights".
Sincere thanks to local photographer Russell P for taking the time to capture and send through these great photos!
Photos taken by Russell Prothero ©