Black Hawk accident remembered 20 years on

Army Black Hawk helicopters carry out flying operations from the flight deck of HMAS Kanimbla near the Cowley Beach region, Queensland, during Exercise Sea Eagle '05. Deep caption More than 500 Royal Australian Navy and Army personnel are participating in the Australian Defence Force amphibious training exercise, Exercise Sea Eagle, at Cowley Beach, north of Townsville. The two week long exercise conducted from 31 October to 11 November 2005 is part of the ongoing development of ADF amphibious capability. Exercise Sea Eagle involves HMA Ships Kanimbla, Tarakan and Betano, Amphibious Task Group planning staff from the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (Maritime) and elements from the Townsville based 2nd Royal Australian Regiment, 5th Aviation Regiment and 10 Force Support Battalion. "The exercise will focus on the planning and conduct of amphibious operations leading to a planned amphibious activity in the Cowley Beach area", said the Commander of the Australian Amphibious Task Group, Captain Ray Griggs, RAN. Exercise Sea Eagle will involve an amphibious work-up, consisting principally of embarking and disembarking troops, vehicles and equipment, and tactical insertion from ship to shore using helicopters and landing craft. The main activity during the exercise will be a simulated evacuation of Australian citizens from Cowley Beach.

Two Army S-70A-9 Black Hawks collided while conducting a training exercise on June 12 1996. (Defence)

Commemorative services were held at the Black Hawk Memorial in the Townsville Palmetum as well as in Canberra, Sydney and at Campbell Barracks, Perth on June 12 to mark the 20th anniversary of Army’s worst peacetime aviation disaster.

On the evening of June 12 1996, a flight of six S-70A-9 Black Hawks from Army’s 5 Aviation Regiment were conducting a night-time counter terrorism training mission with members of the Perth-based Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment in the High Range Training Area near Townsville, in preparation for the upcoming 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

As the formation reached the target zone, the lead Black Hawk, callsigned ‘Black 1’, converged to the right and collided with an adjacent Black Hawk, ‘Black 2’. As a result, both Black Hawks, A25-113 and A25-209, impacted the ground and were destroyed. Three Army aircrew and 15 members of the SAS Regiment were killed. Twelve others were badly injured. 

“The loss of 18 soldiers was the most significant peacetime disaster to strike the Australian Army and the largest single loss of life for Defence since the 1964 HMAS Voyager disaster,” said Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell.

“Across the nation, these services are a reminder that our soldiers will not be forgotten. We also pay tribute to and thank the courageous people who worked to tend to the injured on that fateful night.” 

Fourteen soldiers were awarded bravery decorations for their rescue efforts following the accident.

Source : Australian Aviation

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