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Australia retires LADS laser depth sounder aircraft

LADS taxis to its hanger for the last time before the LADS Flight end of service ceremony at Cairns Airport, Queensland. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy’s laser airborne depth sounder (LADS) aircraft has wrapped up its final sortie after 26 years of service.

Based on the De Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprop aircraft, the LADS was developed in South Australia and since 1993 has been providing navy and the Australian government survey data for complex coastal and reef waters that are dangerous or difficult to survey by traditional ship-based methods.

Commanding Officer LADS Flight, Lieutenant Commander Mark Matthews, said LADS had likely prevented numerous groundings on what would otherwise have been unchartered dangers.

“LADS is an incredible capability that allows us to survey more than 20 square nautical miles an hour in places that are not suitable or practical for hydrographic ships,” Lieutenant Commander Matthews said.

“For the past three years, LADS’s primary mission has been to survey the Great Barrier Reef and other offshore coral reefs and atolls across northern Australia, resulting in major improvements in the charting of these areas.

“Over its life, LADS has charted vast areas of the Australian coast and has deployed to the Cocos Keeling Islands, the sub-Antarctic, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, collecting hydrographic data to improve the safety for all shipping.”

In total, the LADS Flight has flown more than 3,000 sorties, conducted 186 surveys and covered an area of more than 50,000 square kilometers.

In line with the Defence White Paper 2016, the current hydrographic capabilities of the navy will be replaced by commercial hydrographic companies through the HydroScheme Industry Partnership Program.