RAN VC-724

RAN 724 Squadron

Point of Contact = Squadron Duty Officer (SDO). See FAQ/Research/Contact link under [SA] in the menu.

VC-724 pilots KWF the Skyhawk.

Sailor playing TAPS
RAN 1974

Leut Ralph McMillan - 16MAY74 - BuNo 154648, RAN-879


Patches from Phil Thompson.

RamJets was the demonstration team.

Crest images 6 and 7 are from Peter Welsh, a late 1970s to early 80s Skyhawk Maintainer.


David Weber

Evan Burton

Phil Thompson


VC-724 Demonstration Team was known as the RamJets.


10 APR 1945: 724 Squadron established. (Royal Navy).

31 MAY 1946: 724 is dis-established.

01 JUN 1955: 724 Squadron is re-established. (Royal Australian Navy)

30 JUN 1984: VC-724 disestablished.

Home Ports

01 JUN 1955: HMAS Albatross aka NAS Nowra. Located near Nowra, New South Wales, HMAS Albatross is also referred to as NAS Nowra. Nowra is located south of Sydney.

Description: VF-805 A-4G Skyhawks over their home base.


NAS Nora, 1984, Aircraft Support Unit (ASU) outside of "B" Hangar. Provided by Phil Thompson.

Air Wings



Date Type First Received - - - - - - Type of Aircraft:

li>01 JUN 1955: Wirraway, Sea Fury, Firefly and Vampire.


OCT 1956: Sea Venom, Gannet, and Sycamore Helicopters.

Circa 1960: Sea Venoms, Gannets, Vampires, Fireflies, Dakotas and Autocars.

DEC 1968: Vampires, and Sea Venoms.

DEC 1968: Douglas A-4G Skyhawk

DEC 1968: Douglas TA-4G Skyhawk

1970: MB-326 Macchi Trainers replace the Sea Venoms and Vampires.



HMAS Melbourne

HMAS Melbourne and Carrier Air Group including A-4G Skyhawks of VF-805.

Commanding Officers

No info yet.


No info yet

Awards continued

No additional info


10 APR 1945: Served as a communication unit, making flights within Australia.

01 JUN 1955: Serves as a fixed wing training unit.

OCT 1956: Provides training for operations with HMAS Melbourne, using Sea Venom and Gannet aircraft.

1959: 724 Squadron forms an aerobatic team called the "Ramjets", flying "Sea Venoms".

1963-68: 724 Squadron performs all-weather attack, anti-submarine and flight training.

1967: The United States sold 20 Skyhawks to Australia for the Royal Australian Navy. Eight new A-4Es and two TA-4Fs were delivered in 1967. The remaining 10 aircraft (eight refurbished A-4Fs and two TA-4Fs) were delivered in 1971. The Australian Skyhawks were designated A-4G and TA-4G.

1969: A demonstration team, performed with A-4G Skyhawks during "Airday - 1969".

Comments from a former RAN Skyhawk Driver: "The RAN A4Gs began flying in 1968. By 1969 VF 805 was ready to go to sea on the newly refurbished HMAS Melbourne with VC 724 continuing to train the backlog of pilots to the A4G. Each squadron had a tradition of forming their own aerobatic teams when conditions allowed. Previously in the Sea Venom era, the then 724 squadron had a team of Sea Venoms named the "RamJets". These aircraft landed in a 4 Diamond formation. I'm not certain when they (or the equivalent 805 squadron team the "CheckMates") started their displays; but I'm told that the 4 Diamond landing was a feature of the display. For the Sea Venom with excellent "non-skid" (maxarette) brakes the landing on our 6,000 foot long runways at NAS Nowra was not a problem. I believe that 6,000 feet was the minimum required USN runway length for safe A4 operations. In 1969 the now VC 724 'RamJet' pilots had limited numbers of A4Gs to work with. At first the RAN purchased only 8 single seaters and 2 trainers. Later another order of the same number of aircraft arrived by the end of 1971 for a total of 20 Skyhawks. VF-805 took all their aircraft and some of VC-724 aircraft sometimes to keep always their required number of serviceable aircraft, consequently the RamJets often were scrambling to have 3 A4Gs available for practice, sometimes they could muster 4. When 4 single seats were available then they would practice their 4 aircraft diamond landing and other pilots were allowed to sit in on their briefings, (and often hilarious debriefings), before their display practice. [The differing numbers of aircraft in each squadron are not specified as this number frequently changed.] The core team at that time was LCDR Bill "Sailor" Callan, LCDR Grahame "Dusty" King (both had been members of the Sea Venom aerobatic teams) with Leut Errol "Clump" Kavanagh (later served on 2 years exchange with VT 21 at NAS Kingsville). Whenever a 4th aircraft was available then a senior pilot (usually with Sea Venom experience) was in the No.4 slot. Sometimes other members rotated into the No.4 slot to see what the issues were flying there, particularly for the 4 Diamond landing. We used to be famous in Australia for our Merino wool sheep, hence the 'Merino Ram Head' in the RamJets badge.
(Keep in mind that there may be other issues with a 6 aircraft Blue Angel landing). My best recall is as follows. Various positions closer in vertical distance to the leader by No.4 were tried and discarded as being too difficult especially for the formation landing. This 'much accentuated vertical separation distance' can be seen in all the Blue Angel photos. The RamJet photo shows No.4 in the slot having landed already, with the leader not so high as the Blue Angel leader because the RamJet leader had only a 6,000 foot runway to stop. Regularly the tyres were shredded by his frantic braking after landing to get it stopped before the dirt. A truck with spare tyres (in short supply at the beginning) - with the fire truck - was always waiting at the end of the runway during these landings at NAS Nowra. Remaining out of the jet wash of the aircraft in front was critical for this landing. No.4 had to put it down quickly and call that his landing was under control before the leader would land. No.2 & No.3 were safely in each half of the 150 foot wide runway but No.4 was directly behind No.1 with nowhere to go if he did not have the landing under control. If possible the leader could always NOT land or quickly add power to go around just after landing in case No.4 had a problem; BUT I'm guessing this would have been a problem for No.4 anyway as the jet efflux from the leader would have been unavoidable. This situation never arose to my knowledge. Many emergency scenarios during - or just before - landing could be imagined but generally the method was for No.4 to remain (well below) out of the wash of the leader. He needed to land "on the numbers" and to test the brakes and spoilers were working OK, and to call this to the leader. No.2 & No.3 more or less would land no matter what happened otherwise. While the leader landed "long" but needed to brake to the max to get it stopped in time. You can see how just before the landing in this formation that the formation was becoming independent of the leader in a sense, (making their own landings) with the leader having the freedom to "go around" (not land) if No.4 did not call that his landing was under control. Probably the landing was from a higher than usual glide-slope as the runway mirror system was not useful to the leader for this landing. The pipe visible in the foreground of the RAN FAA 4 Diamond landing is for the arrestor gear just in from the threshold - usually landing after this wire would make for a difficult landing. Generally we used the runway mirror system so we landed where the mirror was set (usually well before this arrestor wire).
To my knowledge this landing was not performed in public air-shows at NAS Nowra but on family days and for practice. The shortage of aircraft generally precluded fielding more than a 3 aircraft team. In later years aircraft losses meant that there were fewer aircraft again to do this maneuver and I don't think it was performed from the mid 1970s to the end of A4G operations in 1984. Phil Thompson - RAN Skyhawk Driver.

BuNo 154910, RAN 889, BuNo 155055, RAN 872, BuNo 154907, RAN 886, BuNo 155052, RAN 871 are in the top photo.

Circa 1970: 724 Squadron utilizes its Skyhawks to form a new aerobatic team called the "Checkmates".

JUN 1982: HMAS Melbourne is decommissioned and the need for the Navy's fixed wing units disappears.

JUL 1982: 724 Squadron receives 805 Squadron's Skyhawks.

30 JUN 1984: 724 Squadron is dis-established and it's Skyhawks are sold to the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Unit Photos

FEB 1970: Phil Thompson: VC-724 OFS pilots, FEB 1970. (L to R) LEUT B.J. Daly, LCDR C. Patterson, LEUT Peter McNair, ASLT Phil Thompson, and Leut John Hamilton.

Date unknown: L to R: BuNo 154648 #879, 155063 #876, 154904 #883 and 154905 #884. RAN photo.

1970s: Royal Australian Navy Skyhawk BuNo 154905, #884 in formation with two unknown VC-724 Squadron Skyhawks. Unknown photographer, possibly Michael Sandberg.

Date unknown: Royal Australian Navy Skyhawk BuNo 154905, #884.

1971: VC-724 pilots, Leut W.E. Symons, SubLeut M.J. Symthe, and Leut E.M Kavanagh at NAS Nowra in 1971. Note the tail of VF-805 aircraft, BuNo 154909 #888, in the background. From Phillip Thompson.

JAN 1972: VC-724 pilots, (L to R) LEUT B.J. Daly, LCDR C. Patterson, LEUT R. McNair, LEUT P. Thompson, and Leut J. Hamilton. Photo from Phil Thompson

1972: BuNo 155062, 875, BuNo 155051, 870 and BuNo 154912, 881 banking left in formation. From Phil Thompson.

JUN 1972: Operational Flight School No.6 pilots.

May 1974: Royal Australian Navy Skyhawk BuNo 154909, #888, parked on the ramp. Joe Cupido, G. Verver collection.

May 1974: BuNo 155062, #875, parked on the flight line. Gary Verver Collection

May 1974: Australian Navy Skyhawk BuNo 154907, #886, parked on the ramp with practice bombs and drop tanks. Gary Verver Collection

May 1974: TA-4G BuNo 154912, #881. Gary Verver Collection

26 June 1977: BuNo 155051, #870, parked on the flight line with a centerline tank and Sidewinder missiles. Gary Verver Collection.

1978: VC-724 Skyhawk BuNo 154647, #878, as the gear comes up shortly after takeoff. Photo from Steve McDonald.

1978: BuNo 154647, #888, as she taxis by the photographer during an air-show. Photo from Steve McDonald.

OCT 1978: Australian Navy 724 Squadron Skyhawk BuNo 154911, #880. R.A. London

Date unknown:
BuNo 154911, #880.
BuNo 154911, #880.
BuNo 154911, #880.

Sept 1979: BuNo 154907, #886 rolled off the deck of the HMAS Melbourne in a storm 355km off east Australian coast on 09/79. Gary Verver Collection

Date Unknown: BuNo 155051, #870, parked on the flight deck. Gary Verver Collection

Early 1983: just prior to Skyhawk retirement, John Bartels finishing his last A-4 flight in BuNo 155069, #877. John Bartels

JUN 1983: VC-724 A-4G Skyhawk BuNo 154909, 888, in formation with, and taken from, a Macchi trainer.

A series of photos taken by John Bartels from a Macchi trainer in June of 1983. My best guess is that the A-4G on the port side of the formation is 154909, #888. According to Phil Thompson, the photo of RAN Macchi MB326H behind an A4G Skyhawk was taken on the last 'farewell' flyby (up and down the coast near Nowra) when all the aircraft were available during June 1983. After this the Macchis were transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) who used the Macchis as advanced trainers and Forward Air Control aircraft. Only four (two trainers and two single seats) of the A4Gs flew from that time with the rest going into storage until all ten were sold to RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) in June 1984.
Pic1 best guess is that the A-4G on the port side of the formation is 154909, #888, according to Phil Thompson.
All the aircraft in the photos belong to VC-724, although you see different paint schemes indicating that previously some A4Gs were on VF-805 (disbanded). Why some two tone camo aircraft do not have the black horses head of VF-805 shows that those aircraft were most likely on VC-724. However these aircraft could be transferred to 805 at any moment and it might take a while before the horses head would be painted on the tail. Photos by John Bartels.

Off-Duty Photos

John Bartels, former Skyhawk pilot, in Qantas uniform. John Bartels back in-the-day.

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