Supercar mechanic takes skills to sea

Craftsman Charles Dodds conducts maintenance on an Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter on board HMAS Canberra. Photo: Petty Officer Tom Gibson

Supercar mechanic takes skills to sea

A V8 Supercar and an Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) are worlds apart for many people, but not for Australian Army Craftsman Charles Dodds.

In 2018, Craftsman Dodds worked as a mechanic on the Super2 Championship winning car. 

He is deployed on Regional Presence Deployment 2020 (RPD20) in HMAS Canberra as an aircraft structural fitter, working on the embarked ARH Tigers.

“Obviously a V8 Supercar and an ARH Tiger are a bit different, but both require accurate engineering and maintenance as well as a team effort to allow them to get pushed to their limits,” Craftsman Dodds said.

HMA Ships Canberra, Hobart, Stuart, Arunta and Sirius, and elements of the Australian Army, are on a regional deployment to conduct exercises within Southeast Asia and Hawaii over the coming months. Army’s 1st Aviation Regiment make up the embarked aviation combat element. 

Commanding Officer 1st Aviation Regiment Lieutenant Colonel Steve Hicks said getting Army’s only armed reconnaissance rotary wing capability into the air was not possible without highly skilled individuals such as Craftsman Dodds.

“A full team of aircraft technicians, avionics technicians, aircraft life support fitters and aircraft structural fitters are required to work together, often over long hours, to meet the operational demands required of the unit,” Lieutenant Colonel Hicks said.

“Without tradies like Craftsman Dodds to help keep our aircraft functional and airworthy, our aircrew wouldn’t fly and achieve its mission.”  

Craftsman Dodds’ role requires him to ensure the integrity on the largely composite structure of the ARH Tiger, including components made of Kevlar, the same material used in body armour.

“Being an aircraft structural fitter is a rewarding role, especially when you get to see the aircraft you have worked on launch from HMAS Canberra’s flight deck with nothing but the ocean in the background,” Craftsman Dodds said.

“The sight and sound is quite overwhelming.” 

Craftsman Dodds is one of more than 1400 personnel from all three services deployed on RPD20, a deployment demonstrating Australia’s commitment to regional neighbours and increasing the capability and interoperability of the ADF. 

It is also the first time the Australian Government has directed Tigers to deploy, marking an important milestone for the regiment and its capability. 

The Tiger’s stealthy design, agility and integrated sensor and weapon systems makes it ideal for operations in the reconnaissance and fire support roles; traits that are highly desirable and contributory to a Maritime Task Group.

“This deployment is the first time I have worked with the Royal Australian Navy,” Craftsman Dodds said.

“Having HMAS Canberra as a home and work environment is certainly different to what I am used to and has its own set of challenges, but together we manage to get the aircraft serviceable and ready to achieve the mission.”

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