Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA

Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA

Former Minister for Housing; Fisheries; Veterans Issues; Asian Engagement

    Australian Navy's crack helicopter unit flies into history

    17/10/2017 4:40 PM
    • Importance of the Experimental Military Unit's aerial impact during Vietnam War cannot be underestimated 

    Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley has acknowledged the significant military contribution made during the Vietnam War by the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam (RANHFV).


    The RANHFV was formed 50 years ago and embedded into the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company to form a combined group known as the Experimental Military Unit, or EMU.


    The irony of naming the newly-formed airborne-focused unit after a flightless Australian bird did little to detract from the effectiveness of the EMU. It was the highly successful forerunner for evaluating how Australian and US military forces could collaborate and operate together.


    The RANHFV flew the military variant of the 'Huey' Iroquios helicopter. Photographs and film footage of Hueys flying low over the jungle and transporting and dropping troops into active combat zones are among the most iconic images of the Vietnam War.


    The RANHFV operated continuously in Vietnam from September 1967 to June 1971 and comprised 70 officers, 230 men and 30 Iroquois helicopters, split into three platoons.


    Comments attributed to Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley:


    "A typical day for these air crews started at 4.30am and involved more than 12 hours of flying, with tasks that included dropping troops into hot zones, medivac operations and extracting troops from combat areas at the end of the day.


    "After each mission, maintenance crews would work through the night to ensure the choppers were ready for the following day's operations.


    "The importance of these maintenance crews cannot be underestimated and at the time the Navy News reported that the Australian maintenance crews were recognised by all similar US Army units as the best available.


    "RANHFV pilots and air-crew were involved in some of the most intense battles experienced by Australian troops in Vietnam.


    "By the time the unit was officially disbanded in 1971, it had suffered the highest casualty rate of any RAN unit in Vietnam - five dead and 22 wounded in action.


    "It is worth noting that across the hundreds of missions flown during its four years of operation, the RANHFV earned:

    • Three members of the Order of the British Empire
    • Eight Distinguished Service Crosses;
    • Five Distinguished Flying Crosses;
    • One British Empire Medal;
    • 24 mentions in dispatches; and
    • 34 Naval Board Commendations. 

    "This represents more than half the total honours and awards presented to RAN personnel during the Vietnam War; an incredible achievement for a single unit and one that we should all remember."


    Minister's office - 6552 5300