Air Cloud

Air/Sea Search and Rescue Vessel
Air-Sea Rescue Launch
Harbor Boat Building Co, USA
20 October 1944
20 February 1947
Transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1949
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 24 tons
Length 63 feet (19.2 metres)
Beam 15 feet (4.57 metres)
Draught 3 feet 4 inches (1.01 metres)
Speed Up to 28 knots
Crew 7-8 including 2 RAAF telegraphists
Machinery Twin Hall-Scott petrol engines
Horsepower 1200 bhp
Guns 2 x twin Lewis guns

HMAS Air Cloud was one of 21 air/sea rescue (ASR) vessels originally built in the USA and Canada between 1943 and 1945, and transferred to the RAN under the Lend-Lease Agreement. These vessels were originally designed as anti-submarine craft but their high speed and manoeuvrability made them ideal as search and rescue vessels. In this role, their hulls were painted black and their upper decks and superstructure painted bright yellow. One vessel, HMAS Air Sprite, was built locally in 1960 to an almost identical design.

Air Cloud was commissioned on 20 October 1944 in Sydney under the command of Sub Lieutenant Maxwell Hines, RANVR, and officially listed as a tender to HMAS Rushcutter, and later to HMAS Melville. She remained alongside in Rushcutters Bay immediately after commissioning awaiting the installation of additional radio equipment and preparing for sea. Following trials and inspection of underwater fittings, she finally put to sea on 13 March 1945 and proceeded to Jervis Bay for exercises.

She departed Sydney, in company with her sister ship HMAS Air Sailor, in the early hours of 24 March bound for Darwin and arrived in Coffs Harbour in heavy weather later that day. The two boats remained weatherbound at Coffs Harbour for nearly two weeks. They departed on 5 April only to be forced to return to Coffs Harbour due to a broken spindle drive shaft in Air Sailor’s water pump. They continued their northerly passage on 7 April.

Air Cloud and Air Sailor departed Brisbane on 22 April, joined by HMAS Air Trail, their passage north continuing to be hampered by poor weather. Air Cloud arrived at Darwin on 22 May. She remained in northern Australian waters conducting ASR duties until December 1946. In addition to her ASR duties, she did, on occasion, offer assistance to other boats experiencing difficulties, provided medical assistance to civilians and assisted in the RAAF drawdown in northern Australia following the cessation of hostilities.

She experienced engine problems common to this class of vessel and had new engines installed in May 1946. She was in Darwin for the visit of the Governor-General, His Royal Highness, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, on 18 August and accompanied HMAS Air Master, with the royal party embarked in Air Master, on a circuit of Darwin Harbour.

HMAS Air Cloud and Air View alongside in Darwin Harbour at low and high tide (AWM P03793.002 AWM P03793.003
HMAS Air Cloud and Air View alongside in Darwin Harbour at low and high tide. (AWM P03793.002 AWM P03793.003

On 5 September, Air Cloud and Air Master conducted a search and rescue operation for the survivors of a RAAF Douglas C47 aircraft which had crashed off East Point during a test flight. Air Cloud rescued two survivors while a civil aviation control launch rescued three others, later transferring them to Air Master for passage back to Darwin.

Air Cloud departed Darwin on 5 December for passage back to Sydney where she decommissioned on 20 February 1947. She was transferred to the RAAF in 1949.

A general arrangement plan of the Air class search & rescue vessels
A General Arrangement Plan of the Air Class search and rescue vessels.