No. 9 Squadron RAAF
|No. 9 Squadron RAAF|
A No. 9 Squadron Walrus aircraft embarked on an Australian light cruiser in 1939
|Branch||Royal Australian Air Force|
|Engagements||World War II
No. 9 Squadron was a unit of the Royal Australian Air Force. The squadron saw active service in World War II and the Vietnam War before being disbanded in 1989.
No. 9 Squadron was formed on 1 January 1939 at RAAF Base Richmond by renumbering No. 5 Squadron. As Australia's only fleet co-operation squadron No. 9 Squadron operated amphibious aircraft from the Royal Australian Navy's heavy and light cruisers (each cruiser was assigned a single Seagull or Walrus amphibian).
During the Second World War aircraft from No. 9 Squadron saw action with their parent ships in most of the world's oceans, ranging from the Arctic to the South Pacific. The amphibians were used to provide their parent ships with reconnaissance, anti-submarine protection, artillery spotting and general support. While the amphibians provided important support during the early years of the war, by 1944 the Royal Australian Navy enjoyed considerable support from land and carrier based aircraft and the amphibians were no longer necessary. As a result, all the RAN cruisers had their catapults removed during 1944 and No. 9 Squadron was disbanded at RAAF Base Rathmines on 31 December 1944.
No. 9 Squadron was re-formed at RAAF Base Williamtown on 11 June 1962 equipped with UH-1 Iroquois helicopters. While originally formed to provide the RAAF with a search and rescue capability, the Squadron's main role rapidly became providing airlift to the Australian Army.
The squadron deployed to South Vietnam in mid-1966 and, as part of the 1st Australian Task Force, and began flying operations on 11 June 1966. The Squadron provided the Task Force with part of its helicopter support (most of which was provided by the US Army). Problems soon arose between 9 Squadron and army commanders. The most potentially detrimental development was the insistence that 'Air Board regulations, framed for peacetime, should apply'. Strictures, included 9 Squadron Iroquois helicopters not operating 'into insecure locations' or undertaking roles that were 'offensive'. This exhibited a lack of awareness by the RAAF of the requirements of the ground force in South Vietnam and, by inference, restricted the Army to secure locations where the enemy were unlikely to be, if they wished to be supported by 9 Squadron. The unworkable nature of such operational constraints in war caused Major General Mackay, at one stage, to ground 9 Squadron.
During the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966 two No. 9 Squadron Iroquois flown by Flight Lieutenants Cliff Dohle and Frank Riley completed a hazardous mission to resupply D Company, 6 RAR which was heavily outnumbered and running dangerously low on ammunition. The mission proved vital in ensuring the survival of the Australian infantry until a relief force could fight its way through from Nui Dat and was completed despite heavy rain and the risk of ground fire. Following the withdrawal of the Viet Cong a number of helicopters were used to evacuate the Australian casualties from the battlefield.
As part of the general Australian withdrawal No. 9 Squadron departed from South Vietnam on 8 December 1971. Upon its return to Australia, No. 9 Squadron was based at RAAF Base Amberley where it continued to provide airlift to the Australian Army and search and rescue for the civilian community. Between 1982 and 1986 the Squadron contributed aircraft and aircrew to the Australian helicopter detachment which formed part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
In 1986 the Australian Government decided to transfer all of the RAAF's battlefield helicopter capability to the Australian Army after a decision that all battlefield helicopters should be controlled directly by the army – a decision partly based on the Vietnam experience and problems that arose by having 9 Squadron based in Vung Tau under separate command, rather than co-located with the Australian Army's Task Force (1 ATF) at Nui Dat approximately 50 kilometers north. This had caused a number of problems with support for the Task Force with the Army regarding 9 Squadron as being unreliable and unwilling to expose themselves to enemy fire, unlike US Army units who provided the majority of support tasks for the Australian Army during the Vietnam War.
During February 1988 No. 9 Squadron began to be re-equipped with S-70A Blackhawk helicopters. Upon converting to the new aircraft the Squadron moved to Townsville where it was disbanded. The Squadron's aircrew and aircraft were then used to form 'A' Squadron of the Australian Army's 5th Aviation Regiment.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: No. 9 Squadron RAAF|
- Australian Army Aviation Association 5 Aviation Regiment
- RAAF Museum RAAF 9 Squadron
- Owen Eather (1996) The Tactical Air Support Group, Australian Defence Journal http://www.fourays.org/features_2005/air_support/closeair.htm http://www.fourays.org/features_2005/air_support/closeair3.htm