The chief of the Royal Australian Air Force has laid down a strategy for the next ten years that emphasises networked assets and joint capabilities.
Air Marshall Leo Davies says that progress has been made under the auspices of Project Jericho, an initiative launched by his predecessor to more tightly network the nation’s air force, and also strengthen connectivity with the country’s army and navy. Still, more needs to be done.
Overall, the strategy moves away from what Davies describes as a focus on platforms. Rather, it sets out five pillars to be developed in the decade to 2027: joint warfighting capability, people capability, communication and information systems, infrastructure, and international engagement.
Speaking with journalists at the Air Chiefs Conference prior to Airshow Australia at Avalon, Davies says that if he were to place a Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet in the parade ground of an army barracks, young soldiers would be hard pressed to discuss the aircraft’s capabilities and uses. Similarly, air force personnel need a much greater understanding of the other service branches.
In addition, Davies hopes to foster an RAAF culture where younger personnel feel comfortable coming forward with new ideas that can increase efficiency.
Davies comments came as RAAF prepares to adopt several new capabilities, including the EA-18G Growler Electronic Warfare aircraft, and the Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters, both of which will make their Australian debut’s at this year’s shows. Australia is also beefing up its intelligence, surveillance, and reconaissance (ISR) capabilities, with the addition of new manned and unmanned platforms.
With joint air power a key them of this year’s conference, an Australian special forces officer engaged in the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul teleconferenced in to address the gathering live. He said airpower has proven effective at both detecting and disrupting terrorist factories involved in the production of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The head of Canberra’s special forces, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sengelman, added that tight communications between special forces and fighter aircraft now allow munitions to be deployed against enemy targets within “tens of metres” of Australian forces on the ground.
Alex Selinsky, head of Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), also addressed the gathering, with a presentation about how his agency has helped with RAAF capabilities.
Prior to RAAF F/A-18 ‘classic’ Hornet fighters to Iraq, fatigue issues were discovered in some aircraft’s central pylons. The DSTO devised a procedure to renew the pylons with replacing them, which freed aircraft for service in the Middle East. Two other operators of the Hornet, the US Navy and Switzerland, are now looking at the DSTO’s fix as well.
In addition, Selensky says that DSTO played a leading role in developing the lightning protection used on the F-35.