The Royal Australian Air Force has ambitious plans that emphasise the seamless integration of airborne assets, as it continues to induct new platforms.
Speaking with Flightglobal on the sidelines of an air force conference, AM Geoff Brown foresees air force operations fundamentally changing in the next ten years, relying on data produced from a range of platforms, as well as improve situational awareness.
The concept, dubbed 'Plan Jericho,' will see greater connectivity, allowing for dynamic re-tasking of aircraft, as well as improved integration between the RAAF, other service branches, and coalition partners.
Several officers spoke on the topic during the conference, which preceded the biennial Avalon air show outside of Melbourne. They made much of the Lockheed Martins F-35 fighter's possibilities in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance areas, in addition to its combat capabilities.
Australia has commitments for 72 F-35s, and could acquire up to 100 of the type.
Brown adds that eight RAAF crew members are also embedded with a US Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler squadron to learn about the type's electronic warfare capabilities. In addition to its 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets, Canberra has orders for 12 EA-18Gs, but Brown says the RAAF is unlikely to obtain more of the Boeing type.
Brown says RAAF aircraft have performed well in coalition combat operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Forces deployed include an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft, an Airbus Military A330 multi-role tanker transport (designated the KC-30A in Australian service), and F/A-18Fs.
Brown has particularly high marks for the KC-30As, which have refuelled a broad range of coalition fighters. Dispatch reliability of the type is extremely high, and missions can run up to 11-12 hours. The reliability of the E-7A has also been high.
On the issue of the KC-30A's problematic air-too-air refuelling boom, Brown says progress is being made, and the capability should be available across the RAAF fleet by sometime in 2016.
The boom will allow the KC-30A to refuel types such as the C-17, P-8 Poseidon, and E-7, in addition to types operated by friendly air forces - namely Singapore's F-15SGs and USAF aircraft.
Brown also revealed that RAAF personnel are working at Creech air force base in Nevada to familiarise themselves with the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. He indicates that while Australia has no immediate plans to obtain this system, it could be included in a future defence whitepaper, the next iteration of which is due in the middle of 2015.
"We need to transform ourselves into a truly integrated, networked force that can realise the potential of this technology, and maintain our position as master of the air domain," he adds.