Oakey Army Aviation Centre
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|Oakey Army Aviation Centre|
Swartz Barracks, 2014
|IATA: OKY – ICAO: YBOK|
|Elevation AMSL||1,335 ft / 407 m|
Oakey Army Aviation Centre (IATA: OKY, ICAO: YBOK) is situated approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) from the town centre of Oakey in Queensland, Australia. It provides a training establishment for Australian Army Aviation, and also hosts a Singapore Armed Forces Helicopter Squadron, namely the 126 Squadron. The Defence name for the facility is Swartz Barracks, named for prominent politician, Army Aviation advocate, and ex-POW Sir Reginald Swartz KBE MBE.
The base was constructed in 1943 by the Royal Australian Air Force as RAAF Base Oakey as a training facility and overflow aircraft maintenance depot for RAAF Base Amberley. It was later to store surplus aircraft after the war.
The Army assumed responsibility for the base in 1969 and developed the facility as an Army Aviation training base, as well as the base of several Land Command operational units, primarily under the responsibility of 1st Aviation Regiment which was Headquartered at Oakey until 2005. During the period up to the early 1990s, aircraft types operating from the base included Bell OH-58 Kiowa, Bell UH-1 Iroquois, Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, Pilatus Porter, and GAF Nomad.
During 2002 a decision was made to close RAAF Base Fairbairn in Canberra, and with a desire amongst sections of the ADF to co-locate all Army Helicopter training, the Australian Defence Force Helicopter School (ADFHS) was relocated to Oakey at the start of 2003. From 2004, the focus of the Army Aviation Centre has been gradually moving away from Land Command operational units to a further concentration on Training Command units and the creation of a centre of excellence in training.
In 2007, Boeing Australia was announced the successful tenderer for the Army Aviation Training and Training Support (AATTS) contract and commenced providing non-tactical flying and technical training to Australian Army Aviation. In 2009, the scope of this contract was expanded to include most facets of military rotary wing flying training for Kiowa and Black Hawk helicopters, with the Australian Army conducting a final six week check at the end of the Black Hawk phase.
In 2009 the last remaining Land Command unit, 173rd Aviation Squadron, ceased operations at Oakey, with the forced transfer of the unit's Beechcraft King Air 350 to the RAAF. The unit was subsequently re-designated as a rotary wing squadron under 6th Aviation Regiment, Sydney.
In 2010, with realignment of Army Chain of Command, the base units of the Army Aviation Training Centre came under the control and responsibility of Army Forces Command.
During World War II, the base housed No.6 Aircraft Depot, Royal Australian Air Force.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) units currently based at Oakey include -
- School of Army Aviation (SAA)
- Army Helicopter School (AHS)
- Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Aircraft Maintenance School (RAMS)
- No. 44 Wing Air Traffic Control Detachment
- 1MP Military Police (detachment, including dogs)
- Emergency Response Troop (Emergency Response/Aircraft Crash Rescue), 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, Royal Australian Engineers
- Health Centre Oakey (Primary Health/Emergency Response/Crash Rescue/Aeromedical Evacuation)
Republic of Singapore units currently based at Oakey include -
- 126 Squadron (Super Puma)
The base currently utilises the following aircraft types:
- Bell OH-58 Kiowa
- Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
- Eurocopter EC665 Tiger
- Eurocopter Super Puma (RSAF)
- Eurocopter MRH-90
Visiting types include:
- Various warbird types visit the airfield as part of the Army Aviation Museum Annual Fly-In.
The base facilities include accommodation for students attending courses and single members working on the base. Other facilities include tennis courts, squash courts, basketball and netball court, football ovals, heated 25 m (82 ft) indoor swimming pool, equipped gymnasium, defence banking and credit union branches, and a AAFCANS kiosk (with ATM), as well as messing facilities for Soldiers, SNCO, and Officers.
Museum of Australian Army Flying
The Museum of Australian Army Flying reopened in September 2005 in new buildings on land adjacent to the airport, after a grant was provided by the Australian Government. Distinguished guests included national and local dignitaries, including well known aviation identity Dick Smith. The purpose-built facility includes many historical aircraft tracing the history of the Aviation Corps in the Australian Army and back to the Australian Flying Corps during World War I. Featured types in the collection of aircraft include Bell 47, Bell OH-58 Kiowa, GAF Nomad, Pilatus PC-6 Porter, and Cessna 180. The museum also maintains a significant collection of artefacts dating from the inception of the Army Flying Corps and WWI to the present day.
The Museum of Australian Army Flying is a sub-unit of the Army History Unit, a direct command unit of the Australian Army Headquarters.
Airlines, facilities and destinations
Whilst the airfield is military controlled and regulated, a small civil terminal has been maintained on the airfield for many years. The current terminal structure was built at the same time as the new buildings for the Army Flying Museum refurbishment in 2005, and shares the access road to this facility.
The airfield does not cater for RPT airline services, however it does provide an emergency alternative in the event of adverse weather.
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