New details emerging of Australia's revised 10-year Defence Capability Plan (DCP) indicate that requirements for a heavy transport and land forces surveillance and liaison aircraft have now been formalised into the acquisition programme.

The revised DCP also includes new Royal Australian Air Force training and mission planning projects. Details are unlikely before the fourth quarter despite an initial draft being finished in March.

The extended review now under way was instigated by the government following lessons emerging from Australia's involvement in the Iraq war, ongoing budget pressures and a desire for maximum interoperability with US forces.

The airlifter and surveillance and liaison aircraft requirements were first identified by the Department of Defence in June last year. They now form part of the newly created Project Air 8000 programme.

Air 8000 Phase 1 will refurbish the RAAF's Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules to extend service life to 2020. The Phase 2 battlefield airlifter replaces the Air 5190 light tactical airlifter project while the heavy airlift need is Phase 3. The surveillance and liaison aircraft will be acquired under Phase 4.

The Hercules and light airlifter projects had been due to receive funding approval in 2004-5. However, no information on Air 8000 budget schedules is available.

The new training and mission rehearsal projects are designated Air 5428 and Air 5430. The former is for an integrated pilot training system to be developed in parallel with a planned Lockheed MartinF-35 Joint Strike Fighter acquisition.

Air 5430 will establish an "aerospace synthetic environment" to support long-term force structure planning, identify capability gaps, explore new mission concepts and support mission rehearsal.

Air 5430 is due to receive funding in the 2005-6 financial year. The synthetic environment is intended as a hub to network a broad range of existing and planned RAAF simulation systems into a battlelab capability. This would include the Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft operational mission simulator with the proposed JSF training architecture.

Source: Flight International