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[*] posted on 3-6-2020 at 10:59 PM


Training Flight Trial Launched at Amberley

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued June 03, 2020)

The No. 82 Wing Training Flight (82TF), based at RAAF Base Amberley, is a trial to deliver aircrew operational conversion training in the Super Hornet aircraft in Australia.

Commanding Officer of 82TF, 82 Wing Executive Officer Wing Commander Trevor Andrews, said the launch of the trial was an important milestone for Air Combat Group.

“Operational conversion training had been conducted with United States Navy since 2015,” Wing Commander Andrews said.

“This program will enable No. 82 Wing to provide enduring aircrew training for the entire capability spectrum required for the F/A-18F.

“We expect significant advantages to be realised through an Australian-based operational conversion, such as improved delivery of Australian-trained aircrew back into the squadrons, increased standardisation, reduction in duplicate training overheads and increased alignment to Australian graduation requirements.

“The training will provide a sustainable flying training solution supported by six F/A-18F aircraft and a mixed maintenance workforce of contracted and uniformed members.

“The challenges of international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic have also meant the timing of the trial has been extremely beneficial for workforce sustainment and capability.”

82TF is a partnership arrangement between Air Force and Boeing Defence Australia’s Air Combat Electronic Attack sustainment program.

Under the arrangement, Boeing provides the operational maintenance to the fleet of six Super Hornets under the existing Air Combat Electronic Attack sustainment contract. Ten uniformed RAAF technicians are also embedded within Boeing’s maintenance personnel, thereby building the workforce strength of both organisations.

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[*] posted on 4-6-2020 at 09:06 PM




RAAF F-35
Source: Commonwealth of Australia


RAAF F-35s on the rise Down Under

By Greg Waldron4 June 2020

The commanding officer of the first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadron to operate the Lockheed Martin F-35 believes the type marks a step change.

Wing Commander Darren Clare leads the RAAF’s 3 Sqn, based at RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales, where it is steadily building capability and understanding of the new type.


Darren Clare RAAF
Source: Commonwealth of Australia
Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Darren Clare at Luke AFB, Arizona


3 Sqn operates 12 F-35As out of the 17 examples permanently located in Australia. The other five are with the air force’s 2 Sqn operational conversion unit (OCU), also located at Williamtown. Canberra’s five other F-35As and seven instructors remain at Luke AFB, Arizona, where they are part of the F-35 programme’s international training effort.

Another four F-35As will be ferried to Australia sometime in late July. Ultimately, Canberra has plans to obtain 72 F-35s, which could eventually rise to 100.

According to Australia’s Department of Defence (DoD), its F-35s are cleared to employ a “suite of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons”. These include the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X, as well as laser- and GPS-guided bombs. Also cleared is the internally-mounted GAU-22 25mm cannon. Final operating capability will come when the RAAF has three operational units – also including its 75 and 77 squadrons – supported by the OCU. Overall, Australia’s F-35 fleet has flown over 6,500h.

Clare manages to get into the air with the F-35 about three times per week. Earlier in his career he flew both the Boeing F/A-18A/B “Classic” Hornet, and the F/A-18F Super Hornet. When asked about his favourite, he clearly has a soft spot for the original Hornet – which the F-35A is replacing – but appreciates the greater capability afforded by the new type.

“The Classic fits like a glove and is the one that I’ve put the most hours on,” he says. “But if I thought was going to be heading into combat these days, I wouldn’t want to be in anything besides an F-35. It’s quite an amazing machine.”


Source: Commonwealth of Australia
RAAF F-35As fly in formation with F/A-18s


Clare has high marks for the F-35’s handling characteristics. Some changes that require getting used to are using the helmet-mounted display as opposed to a head-up display, the different locations of various switches and buttons between Boeing and Lockheed jets, and adjusting the menus on the aircraft’s touchscreen display.

The move to the more capable, stealthy F-35A has involved some tactical changes. Operating the original Hornet placed a greater emphasis on the tactical formation, with activities such as operating sensors taking a more secondary role. And since not all the sensors were integrated, different pieces of information would reach the pilot from various origins, such as the radar, radar warning receiver, and sensors on other aircraft.

Clare says sensor integration improved when he moved to the Super Hornet, but has been fully realised on the F-35A. This means F-35s operate at a greater separation, with fused tactical information on one screen. The pilot does not necessarily know which sensor is producing a piece of information, but it is easy to find out if necessary.

“Changing to a stealthy aircraft sort of changes your mindset in tactics. When I grew up flying the classic Hornet, we’re basically shooting AIM-7 [air-to-air missiles] and dropping some laser-guided bombs and that was about it. Tactically [an F-35 pilot] is more a battlespace manager – rather than fighting in a phone booth. We do BFM [basic fighter manoeuvres] and dogfighting, but we obviously try not to get there in the first place. You’re managing your sensors, managing formation, and you’re managing your signatures. With the stealth aircraft, I can be in a position that I couldn’t be with my F-18 doing certain things, but I want to make sure that I don’t give the game away unnecessarily.”

The F-35’s datalinks are consistent with the RAAF’s “Plan Jericho” initiative to better connect platforms across the Australian military. Jericho was launched by former Air Marshal Geoff Brown in early 2015. Brown foresaw air force operations changing radically, relying on data from a range of platforms.


Source: Commonwealth of Australia
F-35As from 3 Sqn conduct instrument landing approach training at RAAF Richmond


Another big change for pilots converting from the Hornet and Super Hornet is that the F-35 conducts air-to-air refuelling via a boom receptacle located on the upper fuselage behind the pilot. This differs from the F/A-18 family, which use the hose-and-drogue method with a refuelling arm located in the aircraft’s nose ahead and to the right of the cockpit.

“Previously I was in control,” he says. “The basket might have been moving around, but I was the one in control of when I was actually going to engage the basket, plug in and get the fuel. Once you’re in [the basket] it is easier to stay there.”

Boom refuelling requires carefully flying in formation with the tanker overhead. Still, RAAF crews are familiar with the new technique. Long delivery transits from the USA to Australia across the Pacific Ocean afford ample opportunities to practice air-to-air refuelling. “It requires a little bit more attention to stay in the right spot so the boom does not have to work too hard,” he says.

Clare dismisses a concern raised by some observers that the boom might accidently scratch the aircraft’s stealthy skin, which could theoretically compromise the type’s signature. He points out that the receptacle is located under “a couple of doors”, so while there could be metal-on-metal scratching from the boom connection, when the “doors close up you’re fine again”.

Considerable work has also gone into working with the RAAF’s three other premiere platforms: Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. Clare notes that since the RAAF is a relatively small air force it is easy to work with colleagues in other aircraft communities.

While the RAAF still has a strong presence at Luke AFB, shifting the majority of its training to Williamtown earlier this year changed the centre of gravity for the force’s F-35A activities. All maintenance training is now undertaken in Australia, and the pilot conversion course has already produced new pilots.


F-35A Australia
Source: Commonwealth of Australia
An RAAF maintainer inspects a maintenance control panel on an Australian F-35A on the flight line at Luke AFB, Arizona


At Luke AFB, RAAF maintainers were able to observe and learn from Lockheed personnel working on the international fleet there. In Williamtown, RAAF personnel maintain the aircraft with support from Lockheed field representatives. Maintainers come not just from the Hornet community, but from the full range of types in the service’s inventory. Senior maintainers even have experience on legacy types such as the General Dynamics F-111, retired in 2010, and the Boeing 707 tanker, retired in 2008. This experience is backed up by the Lockheed team.

“Some of [the Lockheed personnel] have been on the programme for a long time and been at the factory at Fort Worth for quite a while, so they provide understanding of the system,” says Clare. “When my team’s got questions about a maintenance procedure, they receive expert advice.”

The Australian DoD acknowledges that there are challenges with the F-35 programme’s Autonomous Logistics Information System, but it is positive about the F-35 Joint Program Office’s plan to create the new Operational Data Integrated Network system. It feels this will simplify maintenance, be cheaper to maintain, and be easier to upgrade.

Clare stresses that Australia’s F-35A experience has been a profound team effort.

“We’ve done a lot of training and continue to do that,” he says. “We couldn’t do it without the support of all the other air force elements, as well as the contracting industry partners and the like. That’s really the key to the success of the F 35.”
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[*] posted on 6-6-2020 at 04:03 PM


1,000 Hours on the Clock and Counting

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued June 05, 2020)

The first Australian F-35A aircraft to roll off Lockheed Martin’s Texas production line back in 2014 has completed 1,000 flying hours over the skies of Arizona.

Australian F-35A pilot Flight Lieutenant Adrian Herenda was at the controls of A35-001 as the clock ticked over 1000 hours.

The former F/A-18A pilot has been flying the F-35A for about 12 months and said it was a good feeling to be flying the jet when it reached the milestone.

"The F-35A provides the pilot with phenomenal situational awareness, which is a significant benefit when operating in complex threat environments," Flight Lieutenant Herenda said.

Aircraft A35-001 is currently being operated by the international Pilot Training Centre (PTC) at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in the US as part of a pool of training aircraft qualifying F-35A pilots and maintainers from across the globe.

Director General Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Air Commodore Damien Keddie said A35-001 reaching 1000 flying hours was an important achievement for the Australian F-35A Project.

"It demonstrates the maturity of our F-35A capability and showcases the importance of the international F-35 partnership," Air Commodore Keddie said. "A35-001 is one of five Australian aircraft at Luke AFB, with other F-35 partner nations also contributing aircraft to the PTC in a show of global collaboration that has been the cornerstone of the F-35 Program since the earliest days."

Air Vehicle Sub-Project manager Squadron Leader Brook Porter, of JSF Branch in Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), said as the first Australian F-35A, A35-001 was the visible symbol of a new type of weapon system that had already provided reliable pilot training for Australia and the F-35 Cooperative Partnership.

"In reaching this milestone, A35-001 typifies the extraordinary contribution that Australia has made as a partner nation within the global F-35 Program," Squadron Leader Porter said.

"It’s another significant step forward as the F-35A weapon system continues its successful path to becoming our future fighter capability – a capability that provides obvious benefits to Defence but is also highly profitable to Australian industry, with more than 50 Australian companies winning more than A$1.7 billion in production contracts to date."

Project Engineering Manager Timothy Rafferty, of JSF Branch, said the milestone signified the maturity of the platform and associated support systems.

"Given A35-001 completed most of its 1,000 flying hours at the PTC, this milestone highlights the contribution Australia has made to the collaborative training environment, with more than 1,000 F-35 pilots now qualified and flying with their respective services," Mr Rafferty said.

Australia has now accepted 26 F-35A aircraft in total. In addition to the five at the PTC, 17 are operating at No. 3 Squadron and No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown. The remaining four jets are scheduled to transit from the US to Australia before August.

Mr Rafferty said JSF Branch personnel played a key role in the acquisition, initial certification and airworthiness management of Australia’s F-35A fleet from 2014 until mid-2018. In 2018, the Air Combat Systems Program Office (ACSPO) in CASG assumed responsibility for airworthiness and overall sustainment management of the fleet.

"This demonstrates the critical and ongoing collaboration taking place as we work to ensure all 72 jets are delivered to Australia by the end of 2023 for Final Operating Capability [FOC]," he said.

Squadron Leader Porter said the Mission Systems team in JSF Branch was focused on ensuring Australia's needs were rolled into the weapon system as the aircraft evolved over its life cycle.

"Since 2014, we [Australia] have grown our fleet to 26 aircraft, established training systems, simulators and the complex Autonomic Logistics Information System, developed electronic warfare reprogramming capabilities and upgraded RAAF bases to handle the F-35A. We have also assisted in the creation of Australian-based industry support," Squadron Leader Porter said.

"We have increased our pace from a crawl to a jog, with ACSPO and Air Combat Group rapidly taking up the reins and doing so with aplomb."

It was important to acknowledge that the achievement of the 1000 flying hours milestone was the result of "tireless work by so many people, past and present, working together".

"There is a lot more work to be done and we are well prepared," he said.

This is the final year of the RAAF's contribution to the PTC. From 2021, all F-35 training is planned to be conducted in Australia.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The 1,000 hours flown by the Australian F-35A work out to 166 hours per year, almost 14 hours per month and 3.5 hours per week, or an average of one flight hour every other day.)

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[*] posted on 12-6-2020 at 11:58 PM


From the latest ADBR story, RAAF are currently studying a proposal to take on another pair of ex-QANTAS A330’s and convert them to KC-30A standard, bring our refueller fleet up to 9 aircraft...

Would be very handy with all the boom refuelled aircraft we are adding into the RAAF fleet...




In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 16-6-2020 at 08:35 AM


Quote: Originally posted by ADMK2  
From the latest ADBR story, RAAF are currently studying a proposal to take on another pair of ex-QANTAS A330’s and convert them to KC-30A standard, bring our refueller fleet up to 9 aircraft...

Would be very handy with all the boom refuelled aircraft we are adding into the RAAF fleet...


A very, very wise investment. And a damn sight easier to do than add two more Wedgetails (an equally important project but one that probably won't see the light of day)




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[*] posted on 16-6-2020 at 09:48 AM


I'm more interested to see the day when someone buys Unmanned tankers ala the USN efforts...........Loyal Wingmen and Loyal Tankers is a very potent mix IMHO.
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[*] posted on 18-6-2020 at 09:25 PM


Australia commits to third MQ-4C Triton

By Greg Waldron

18 June 2020

Canberra has committed to obtaining its third Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAS.

“Once in service, this capability will significantly enhance our ability to persistently patrol Australia’s maritime approaches from the North, in the South West Pacific and down to Antarctica,” says defence minister Linda Reynolds.

“The fleet is being developed and purchased through a Cooperative Program with the US Navy. This programme strengthens our ability to develop advanced maritime surveillance capability and ensure our capabilities remain complementary with our security partners, while sharing in the benefits of their technical expertise and project costs.”

In June 2018, Canberra announced that it would obtain six MQ-4Cs.

A potential wrinkle in its plan occurred in early 2020, when the Trump administration proposed a production pause for the programme in FY2021 and FY2022.

Given that this will affect Canberra’s acquisition, Northrop Grumman proposed that Australia advance its acquisition of the MQ-4C.

The proposal would see all six of Australia’s Tritons come from low-rate, initial-product lot five (LRIP 5). Previously, only one Australian Triton was earmarked for LRIP five, with the following aircraft coming from subsequent lots.
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[*] posted on 19-6-2020 at 01:48 PM


Defence Goes Fishing for Hawk Replacement (excerpt)

(Source: Australian Defence Magazine; posted June 18, 2020)

By Nigel Pittaway


The Royal Australian Air Force is looking to replace the BAE Systems Hawk Mk. 127 advanced jet trainer for both fighter lead-in training and in-flight combat training and plans to spend up to A$5 billion on the program. (RAAF photo)

MELBOURNE --- Defence released a Request For Information (RFI) to industry on June 2 with a view to replacing its Lead In Fighter Training System (LIFTS), currently provided by the BAE Systems Hawk Mk.127 platform.

The Hawk has recently completed a significant mid-life upgrade under Project Air 5438 and has a current planned withdrawal date of 2026.

The RFI for a replacement capability is part of Air 6002 Phase 1 (Future Lead-In Fighter Training System) which, according to the 2016 Defence White Paper and associated Industry Investment Program, is a $4-5 billion project scheduled to run between 2022 and 2033.

Air 6002 has two major requirements, the primary role being the means of providing training for RAAF pilots and Weapons Systems operators streamed for fast jet operations, between the undergraduate PC-21 and the F/A-18F, F-35A or EA-18G.

The secondary requirement will be to support other ADF capabilities in both the friendly (Blue Air) or opposing (Red Air) forces. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the ADM website.

https://www.australiandefence.com.au/news/defence-goes-fishi...

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[*] posted on 19-6-2020 at 02:35 PM


The new USAF trainer, plus the usual Korean offer, and the Italians have to be top to offer
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[*] posted on 23-6-2020 at 07:38 PM


Canberra kicks off search for new advanced jet trainer

By Greg Waldron

23 June 2020

Canberra has commenced the search for a new advanced jet trainer to replace BAE Systems Hawk 127s operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

A request for information (RFI) for the AIR 6002 Phase 1 requirement was issued on 1 June, says the Australian Department of Defence.


Source: Commonwealth of Australia
Royal Australian Air Force Hawk 127s fly over RAAF Williamtown


“Defence is yet to fully define the requirements for AIR 6002 Phase 1 Future Lead in Fighter Training System,” it says.

“However, aircraft performance and aircraft mission systems that bridge between the pilot training system and fast jet conversion courses will be critical requirements. The Future Lead In Fighter Training System will be expected to remain relevant to its role in training fast jet aircrew and supporting joint force training, to be adaptable to those needs as they evolve, to be affordable, and to be safe out to an indicative timeframe of 2050.”

Of major trainer manufacturers, BAE Systems, Boeing and Leonardo all say they are interested in the requirment.

BAE Systems is upbeat about the prospects for its long-running platform. “The Hawk is the world’s most successful and proven military aircraft trainer, built on more than 35 years of experience training pilots for the world’s leading air forces. For more than 20 years, we have worked in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force to ensure it has the pilots it requires… and we believe Hawk is the proven solution to continue this partnership.”

Boeing plans to pitch its developmental T-7A Red Hawk, having briefed on the jet at the Avalaon Airshow in February 2019. “[The] Boeing T-7A Red Hawk is an all-new advanced pilot training system designed for the US Air Force training mission, with the flexibility to evolve as technologies, missions and training needs change. It includes trainer aircraft, ground-based training and support – designed together from the start.”

Leonardo says it will offer the M-346, which it claims is the ideal platform for training future pilots of the Lockheed Martin F-35. It notes that the M-346 is operated by Israel, Italy, Poland and Singapore, all of which are current or prospective operators of the Joint Strike Fighter.

”The M-346 Training System is cost-effective, and state-of-the-art with the reliability of a fully developed programme, representing a competitive and no-risk solution compared with the alternatives,” says Leonardo.

Korea Aerospace Industries, which produces the T-50 advanced jet trainer, tells FlightGlobal that it is reviewing the RFI.

Cirium fleets data shows that the RAAF operates 33 Hawk 127s.
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[*] posted on 27-6-2020 at 04:42 PM


Local Knowledge in Simulators Upgrade

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued June 26, 2020)

The four F-35A Full Mission Simulators (FMSims) currently operational at RAAF Base Williamtown have been successfully upgraded by local experts to support the continued build-up of pilot training at No. 3 Squadron and No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit.

Led by Defence’s F-35A industry partner Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA), the software in the FMSims was upgraded to align with the latest Operational Flight Program (OFP) installed in the aircraft.

Training Systems Manager at the Air Combat Systems Program Office (ACSPO), Harley Doughty, said this was an important step because it was critical the training devices and aircraft operating systems remain aligned.

"Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) in the US was planning to send an installation team to all sites around the world with fielded FMSims to complete the upgrade," Mr Doughty said.

"The upgrade team would have comprised at least three US personnel, including a test pilot. The capability of local simulator technicians from LMA has been growing since 2018, when the F-35A precinct opened at Williamtown and the first FMSims pair was installed and declared ready for training in early 2019."

Mr Doughty said the capabilities of the local team enabled the successful completion of the software installation without the physical presence of the American team, with reach-back support provided by the US, over a two-week period in May.

"All four F-35A FMSims have now been returned to operational service," Mr Doughty said.

"With the freeze on international travel, had a local support option not been available, our FMSims would have been out of alignment with the software configuration of the aircraft. This would have been further compounded when subsequent OFP software upgrades were released."

He said the successful local upgrade was a precedent for future upgrades and could potentially save Australia hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel and support costs over the life of the program.

Officer Commanding ACSPO, Group Captain Al Wherrett, said Defence had developed a strategy to ensure a safe and effective transition of F-35A training from the US to Australia.

"The F-35 Program has been conducting F-35 training in the US for more than six years," Group Captain Wherrett said.

"Australia has leveraged the knowledge from the US experience to establish and grow the sovereign Australian F-35A training system over the past two-to-three years. Simulation plays a key role in F-35A training and Defence is working closely with the F-35 JPO, LM and LMA to ensure training and courseware delivery meets our capability and schedule requirements."

LMA’s Australian F-35 In-Country Lead, Andy Doyle, said LMA had been growing Australian industry expertise in F-35A training support roles at Williamtown since 2018, including pilot and maintenance instructors, courseware developers, simulator technicians and information systems support.

"The software upgrade to the simulators provided a great opportunity for our team to apply their knowledge and skills, and has ensured that the FMSims continue to match the F-35A aircraft software and provide maximum training benefit to the RAAF," Mr Doyle said.

Ten F-35A FMSims will eventually be installed – six at Williamtown and four at RAAF Base Tindal – supporting sovereign F-35A pilot training for the life of the capability.

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[*] posted on 27-6-2020 at 04:44 PM


'Meeting in the Middle' High Above NSW Coast

(Source: Royal Australian Air Force; issued June 24, 2020)


An Airbus KC-30A aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force refuels F-35A aircraft during their journey to Australia. RAAF units are training for in-flight refueling as they work towards the F-35’s Initial Operating Capability milestone. (RAAF file photo)

Eagle-eyed residents have spotted high-flying Air Force training missions over Taree on the NSW mid-north coast.

A local Facebook page featured images shot by a Taree resident of a KC-30A multi-role tanker transport conducting air-to-air refuelling with a pair of F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft.

Commanding Officer of No. 33 Squadron, Wing Commander Sarah Stalker, said skies over the area were frequently used for training.

“We’ll often use a block of airspace that extends from Williamtown to Coffs Harbour, which allows aircraft from Williamtown and Amberley to ‘meet in the middle’ when training,” Wing Commander Stalker said.

“Air-to-air refuelling is usually conducted at an altitude of 20,000 feet or more, so will often go unnoticed by the local community.”

The KC-30A is a converted Airbus A330 airliner, and the RAAF operates a fleet of seven of these aircraft.

While the KC-30A’s interior is almost exactly like a normal airliner, the rest of the aircraft has been modified with systems to perform the air-to-air refuelling.

“We can carry more than 100 tonnes of fuel and have two methods of offloading that fuel to another aircraft,” Wing Commander Stalker said.

“The receiver aircraft will need to maintain a precise formation with the tanker whilst they fly together at 600 kilometres per hour.

“The receiver aircraft will either ‘plug in’ to a hose-and-drogue being trailed out by the tanker, or be ‘plugged’ by the refuelling boom on the tanker, depending on the refuelling system of the receiving aircraft.”

The KC-30A’s boom can offload fuel at a rate of 4500 litres a minute and its hose-and-drogues can offload fuel at 1600 litres a minute.

An air refuelling operator uses a console in the cockpit and 3D monitors to direct the refuelling process behind the aircraft.

Regular training and precise skill from the tanker crew and receiver pilot is necessary for safe air-to-air refuelling, however, this training activity presents very little risk to the wider public.

“We conduct a lot of this training away from built-up areas, in airspace that is away from where other aircraft will be flying,” Wing Commander Stalker said.

“Typically, there is no fuel that escapes during each airborne refuel, and if fuel is released, it evaporates into the atmosphere, rather than falling directly onto the ground.”

Regular training ensures the RAAF is able to respond to events at short notice and travel long distances.

“Anyone who has flown over Australia or overseas can appreciate the long distances that need to be covered to get somewhere, and the RAAF is no exception,” Wing Commander Stalker said.

“Air-to-air refuelling isn’t just limited to our fighters – we can use it to keep surveillance aircraft in the air for longer, and we’ve even refuelled other transport aircraft.

“In 2017, we refuelled a RAAF C-17A Globemaster on a non-stop mission from Tasmania to air-drop supplies in Antarctica – a round-trip of 7000km.”

The current round of air-to-air refuelling training is expected to continue high above the mid north coast of NSW until June 25.

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[*] posted on 4-7-2020 at 01:50 PM


03 JULY 2020

Australia to receive first three Triton HALE UAVs by 2025

by Julian Kerr

Australia can expect delivery of its first Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2023, and of the second and third aircraft by early 2025, Northrop Grumman Australia Chief Executive Chris Deeble has disclosed.

Deeble told Janes on 3 July that all three platforms are part of low-rate initial production (LRIP) ‘lot five’, as detailed on 25 June by the US Navy (USN), which is the contracting party on a USD333.4 million contract awarded to Northrop Grumman for the three UAVs, two main operating bases, and one forward operating base in an integrated functional capability-four (IFC-4) and multiple intelligence configuration.


A USN MQ-4C Triton UAV taxiing at Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam. Australia is expected to receive three Triton UAVs by 2025, manufacturer Northrop Grumman told Janes on 3 July. (DVIDS)

IFC-4 functionality will add a signals intelligence capability to the UAV’s baseline IFC-3 configuration.

The production pause proposed in draft US budget papers for USN Triton UAVs in fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) and FY 2022 provides Australia with an unprecedented opportunity to fill the LRIP-5 production gap with the remainder of its own Triton requirement, said Deeble.

“We continue to work with the US Navy, US Congress, the Australian government, and the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] to identify solutions to prevent a pause in Triton production.

“While options for production and delivery are still being discussed, if Australia commits to an additional four aircraft, we anticipate delivery of the last aircraft in 2026,” he added.

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper forecast a requirement for seven Tritons under Project Air 7000 Phase 1B to supplement the RAAF’s manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.
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[*] posted on 10-7-2020 at 02:18 PM


Last Classic Hornet Taxis Out of Service Facility

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued July 9, 2020)

The last F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets to undergo deeper maintenance servicing have rolled out of the Boeing Defence Australia facility at RAAF Base Williamtown.

Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, said 150 jobs in the Hunter region had been supported through this important work.

“This was the 163rd and final deeper maintenance servicing for the Air Force Classic Hornet fleet since 2013,” Minister Price said.

“These operations have generated an additional 140,000 flying hours for the Classic Hornets and also contributed $200 million to the Australian economy.”

Deeper maintenance servicing on the Classic Hornet will no longer be required as the capability is progressively replaced by the F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

“To secure these local Hunter jobs, Boeing will continue to provide logistics, engineering and maintenance support through to the planned withdrawal date of December 2021,” Minister Price said.

“Boeing will also assist Defence to prepare retired Classic Hornet aircraft for heritage display within Australia and potential sale to foreign customers.

“This continued effort will assist in retaining a highly skilled Hunter region aviation workforce until there is a requirement for F-35A Lightning II sustainment which will also be based at RAAF Base Williamtown.”

The fleet of 75 Classic Hornet aircraft were introduced into service in 1985 and will see 36 years’ service by the planned withdrawal in December 2021.

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[*] posted on 15-7-2020 at 08:33 PM


US, Australia advance partnership on next generation jammer for EA-18G

By Greg Waldron

15 July 2020

Washington DC and Canberra have entered a partnership for work related to the developmental Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) project.

The pact between the US and Australian defence departments allows the two countries to share costs and risk, as well as ensure commonality, says the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).


RAAF EA-18G
Source: Greg Waldron
A Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G Growler at the 2017 Avalon Airshow


NGJ-LB is part of the broader Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) programme. When deployed, the new jammer will replace the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System aboard the Boeing EA-18G Growler, the electronic warfare variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet. The US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force are the only operators of the EA-18G.

“This expanded partnership with Australia to develop the newest Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) jamming capability shows the level of commitment of both countries to ensure continued superiority of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said U.S. Navy captain Michael Orr, AEA Systems program manager.

“The NGJ-LB [project arrangement] allows for joint sharing of the best technologies in the world, furthering the AEA capabilities of both the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).”

Two companies, L3Harris and Northrop Grumman, are competing on the NGJ-LB project.

“The programme will enter the next phase of acquisition when the Capability Block 1 contract is awarded fall 2020,” adds NAVAIR. “NGJ-LB will utilise the latest digital and software-based technologies that will address advanced and emerging threats in the lower frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

The NGJ-LB pact follows a similar one in May related to the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band, which is set to commence developmental flight testing on the EA-18G.
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[*] posted on 16-7-2020 at 07:10 PM


15 JULY 2020

Details emerge on Australian Wedgetail replacement

by Charles Forrester

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has confirmed some of the broad outlines of the replacement of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) Boeing E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.

A DoD spokesperson told Janes that the Wedgetail Replacement project, designated AIR7002 Phase 1, will commence in 2029. At that point the programme “is designed to begin scoping and risk reduction studies, informing potential platform replacement and technology options for the E-7A [Wedgetail]. The replacement of the [E-7A] Wedgetail fleet will begin in the second half of the 2030s.”


Australia is now working to replace its E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C fleet from the mid-2030s. (US Air Force/SSgt Michael Battles)

The DoD is currently progressing a capability upgrade for its existing fleet of E-7A Wedgetail aircraft under the AUD2.3–3.5 billion (USD1.6–2.4 billion) project AIR5077 Phase 6 for approval by the government. According to the spokesperson, once the government approves AIR5077 Phase 6 work can begin to define AIR7002 Phase 1 capability life-cycle milestones such as initial operating capability and full operating capability. Following the completion of the AIR5077 Phase 6, which is anticipated for 2028, details for the E-7A project are expected to be released to the defence industry.

The result of these scoping studies in the future will help to understand the extent of the Australian Defence Force’s airborne command-and-control (C2) requirements, which will help “to determine the best way to deliver these effects,” in addition to the number of aircraft. The 2020 Force Structure Plan also recognised the need for an increase in the RAAF’s AEW&C fleet from the current six aircraft.
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[*] posted on 17-7-2020 at 10:37 PM


The smartest option would probably be to go for a fleet of variants based on a single airframe, probably the Airbus A350, for tanker, transport, VIP and Wedgetail operations.

Same cockpits, same engines, undercarriage, etc, with the gear inside of, and attached to, the fuselage being the biggest change.

Sure the A350 is a lot bigger than the 737 the current Wedgetail is based on, but that would allow the Wedgetail II to deploy further away from bases for longer, and have growth potential built in.




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[*] posted on 17-7-2020 at 10:43 PM


I have a sneaking suspicion the end result will be a larger number of a much smaller aircraft, closer to the likes of a business jet.

By the time a replacement is due, improved radar, computing performance and automation should allow for a relatively similar equivalent capability with fewer personnel and a smaller physical footprint. I can see a situation where there is one sensing aircraft for every 4-6 deployed fighter aircraft that operates as a sensor hub as well as a hub for unmanned aircraft.




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[*] posted on 17-7-2020 at 11:56 PM


Australia Leading the Way in Asia Pacific F-35 Maintenance

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued July 17, 2020)

Australia’s defence industry continues to fly high, with a key milestone reached in the maintenance of the Royal Australian Air Force’s new F-35 fighter jets.

The first Australian F‑35A engine fan module has undergone routine maintenance at local Queensland business TAE Aerospace, based at Bundamba in Ipswich.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said it highlighted the growing capability of Australian defence companies.

“By maintaining and repairing the F-35 engines in Australia, we can get these planes back in the air quicker, while also creating skilled jobs for many Australians,” Minister Price said.

“And in a world first, this type of engine work was the first to ever be completed outside of the United States, representing a significant new step for TAE Aerospace and the Australian defence industry.”

This proves to be a year of milestones for the 100 per cent Australian-owned TAE Aerospace, which in May celebrated its 20th year in the aerospace industry.

“TAE’s recent achievements are a testament to the importance of defence industry in contributing to our economy, and our footprint in the global F-35 Program.”

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[*] posted on 19-7-2020 at 07:28 PM


Quote: Originally posted by ARH  
I have a sneaking suspicion the end result will be a larger number of a much smaller aircraft, closer to the likes of a business jet.

By the time a replacement is due, improved radar, computing performance and automation should allow for a relatively similar equivalent capability with fewer personnel and a smaller physical footprint. I can see a situation where there is one sensing aircraft for every 4-6 deployed fighter aircraft that operates as a sensor hub as well as a hub for unmanned aircraft.


I don't. There is still a minimum viable size for AAR, and going to smaller aircraft for things like the AEWC role means more, not less, tanking to remain on station and limits the size of the crew to operate the radar, making crew fatigue a factor, whereas Wedgetail can carry extra people to swap on long sorties.

The same is true for transporting significant amounts of people and cargo to support ops overseas. When range and cargo capacity are needed small is not better.

Also the 737 that the RAAF currently operates for VIP and transport roles is almost too small, given the range to most of the people we want to talk to, the US, UK, NATO, Japan, India and China.

The best replacement for the aircraft in service in the tanker, transport and VIP roles is a similar sized aircraft to the A330 we are already operating.

In that case, the only real replacements are A330 NEO or A350 or from Boeing, the B777 or 787.






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[*] posted on 19-7-2020 at 08:15 PM


Quote:
I don't. There is still a minimum viable size for AAR, and going to smaller aircraft for things like the AEWC role means more, not less, tanking to remain on station and limits the size of the crew to operate the radar, making crew fatigue a factor, whereas Wedgetail can carry extra people to swap on long sorties.


Aircraft along the lines of the G650 have about double the range of the 737 that our current AEWACS are based on. A smaller aircraft doesn't automatically mean reduced endurance. Smaller aircraft also doesn't mean the workload will be greater for flight crew, given how much of the current workload will be automated in the future. There is no inherent need why the aircraft even needs to be manned at all.

Transport aircraft are obviously another matter, but sensor and computer technology is getting smaller and lighter, not the other way around.




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[*] posted on 21-7-2020 at 08:00 PM


Quote: Originally posted by ARH  
Aircraft along the lines of the G650 have about double the range of the 737 that our current AEWACS are based on. A smaller aircraft doesn't automatically mean reduced endurance. Smaller aircraft also doesn't mean the workload will be greater for flight crew, given how much of the current workload will be automated in the future. There is no inherent need why the aircraft even needs to be manned at all.

Transport aircraft are obviously another matter, but sensor and computer technology is getting smaller and lighter, not the other way around.


Life-cycle fuel and consumable costs of a heavy jet are much greater than the initial cost. Small bizjets are gas-guzzlers too, but a G650ER isn't that small, it's more like a light regional jet but with much longer range, speed and endurance. G650ER also has the long-range cruise speed and altitude performances to hang with a flight of F-35A, without really slowing them down. Long-range cruise is 488 kt @ 51,000 ft, for 13,900 km track distance and up to 6,500 lb of payload.

It'll get draggy and use up the payload fast, but probably up-thrust the engines some. A good starting point for the basic jet at $75 million USD.

A350-1000 is around $370 million USD, and has similar cruise speed and range to G650ER, but only a 43,000 ft ceiling and the max cruise speed will be much lower altitude than that.

Altitude matters for sensor footprints and comms link range, plus to maintain a higher radius from the action - why USAF re-purposed U2 as near to combat zone data-relays.

And I can't see RAAF wanting to use a Wedgetail replacement for logistics or transportation, other than incidental capability, so why buy so much air frame and payload, plus ruinous fuel cost if you'll generally not be using it?

I don't think unmanned should be used in that role.
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[*] posted on 25-7-2020 at 02:56 PM


Royal Australian Air Force Joins Regional Deployment

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued July 24, 2020)


Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail, F-18A Hornets and EA-18G Growler fly over a Royal Australian Navy task group comprising HMA Ships Canberra, Hobart, Stuart, Arunta and Sirius during the Regional Presence Deployment in July 2020. (RAAF photo)

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft and more than 150 RAAF personnel have deployed to Guam to join exercises with the Royal Australian Navy and the United States.

An Air Task Unit made up of F/A-18A Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, an E-7A Wedgetail and a KC-30A Multirole Tanker Transport will conduct advanced air-sea integration drills with five Royal Australian Navy warships.

HMAS Canberra, Hobart, Stuart, Arunta and Sirius are part of a Joint Task Group conducting a regional deployment through Southeast Asia, before participating in exercise RIMPAC in Hawaii.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said training of air and sea forces is an important progression in the joint force capability.

“Some of our most advanced capabilities including the EA-18G Growler and the Guided Missile Destroyer, HMAS Hobart, will be able to integrate in a combined air and sea environment,” Minister Reynolds said.

“This deployment demonstrates Defence as a capable force, with an ability to conduct complex and extended deployments at sea and in the air organically and with our regional partners.”

The transit to RIMPAC provides Navy an opportunity to practice joint warfare.

Training will include an E-7A Wedgetail aircraft working alongside the maritime elements, to generate an overall air and sea picture.

They will also conduct maritime air defence and air combat exercises with US Air Force partners and the Australian Joint Task Group.

“Exercising as a joint force across air and sea allows the Navy and Air Force to understand each other’s warfighting activities, to fight better in the maritime environment, make decisions quickly and fully employ their forces across multiple domains,” Minister Reynolds said.

The deployed Australian forces will also increase interoperability by training with the US forces in the region.

The Air Task Unit will return to Australia in late July 2020.

Defence is fully committed to adhering to public health guidelines to minimise transmission of COVID-19 and has implemented significant measures to ensure the health and safety of its personnel and the broader community.

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[*] posted on 25-7-2020 at 09:06 PM


AAW, ASW, amphibious capability, RAS plus AEW, EW attack, AAR and soon to be 5th generation / stealth aircraft. Plus the Collins class that's not in the image.

Now that is a capability that the ADF could only dream of a decade or so ago, there really aren't that many military's that can put all that capability into one place, in this part of the world, besides China and the US, there are only about two others, Japan and South Korea, while Singapore has ambitions.

A lot of hard work's been done to enable all that.

The biggest issue is that there is not enough of each of those capabilities, we have no capacity to absorb even minor losses.




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[*] posted on 26-7-2020 at 01:33 AM


Agreed. Things are infinitely better than they were 10-15 years ago in terms of actual platform capability, that is an objective fact. The new gear coming online in the future will be world class.

The problem is, as you say, and what is the main driver in my opinions, is the lack of platform numbers. We just don't have enough.
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