Home' Air Force News : March 17th 2011 Contents March 17, 2011
SGT Andrew Hetherington
ONE of Air Force's newest capabili-
ties made its first Australian appear-
ance in RAAF livery at Avalon 2011.
The unit showcasing the Heron
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)
was 5 Flight (5 FLT) based at RAAF
CO 5FLT WGCDR Lyle Holt said
attending the airshow raised the pro-
file of the Heron.
"While we only participated in
Avalon's trade days, we had a lot of
interest in this new aircraft," he said.
"Despite the fact we've been
operating in Afghanistan for over 12
months, flying over 3600 hours in
support of the Australian Army, few
people know exactly what the aircraft
does or of the tremendous potential
RPAs offer Australian operations."
The critical capability Heron
provides in Afghanistan gives com-
manders on the ground greater situ-
ational awareness and helps save
WGCDR Holt said that his unit's
role was to manage the Heron capa-
"5FLT identifies, selects, trains,
force prepares and deploys all Heron
personnel deploying to Afghanistan,
which represents about 120 people a
year," he said.
"They come from across the three
services and include pilots, air com-
bat officers, airborne electronic ana-
lysts, intelligence officers, imagery
analysts, logisticians, administration
and operations officers."
One of 5FLT's most important
functions is improving Heron train-
ing to meet the developing needs in
"From March, we will manage
IN HIS first visit to Australia as the
Pentagon's head of the F-35 Joint
Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, US
Navy VADM David Venlet was con-
fident that Australia would receive its
JSF aircraft on time and on budget,
and to the capability promised.
Addressing the Air Chiefs
Symposium and then speaking to the
media, VADM Venlet stressed that the
recent restructuring of the program to
ensure its stability was realistic and
He said that by reducing initial
production quantities of aircraft and
increasing the testing regime, the US
was better able to address lingering
technical and cost issues.
The head of Australia's JSF pro-
ject, AVM Kym Osley, said that this
ultimately reduced risk in Australia's
"The latest changes relate primar-
the contracted Heron Air Vehicle and
Payload Operator initial flying train-
ing in Australia at the Woomera Test
Facility," WGCDR Holt said.
"5FLT will then conduct an addi-
tional flying course to improve the
preparation of Heron crews for RPA
operations in Afghanistan."
He said having arrived from
Israel by airfreight and truck to par-
ticipate in the airshow, the Heron's
move from Avalon to Woomera
demonstrated another unique aspect
of the RPA. "We can pack up this
aircraft, put it on a truck or aircraft
and be flying operationally anywhere
in the world within days."
87SQN geospatial imagery intel-
ligence analyst (GIA) SGT Justin
Colenso has first-hand experience
seeing what Heron can do. He
deployed to Afghanistan between
December 2009 and May 2010 as a
senior GIA to Kandahar.
"It performed really well in its
roles, it's easy to work with and
integrated with the ground units, who
benefited from our overwatch capa-
bilities," SGT Colenso said.
He recalls a mission in March last
year when Heron more than proved
its worth, assisting soldiers on the
ground to successfully detain a per-
son of interest.
"We had eyes on him [the target]
and tracked him around the Afghan
countryside for more than three
hours," he said.
"He was on foot and on motor-
bike and at times swapped motor-
After soldiers aboard helicop-
ters arrived at the compound, SGT
Colenso and his colleagues continued
to provide overwatch assistance,
which led to the eventual detention
of the individual.
"The person of interest was joined
by quite a number of other people
and it was like a bomb burst of guys
fleeing [the scene]," SGT Colenso
"Luckily we could keep track of
him and saw he went into another
compound where our guys then went
in and detained him."
Unaware that his movements
were being tracked by the Heron, the
man tried to dispose of something
before being caught.
"We could see him dropping
items of interest into the water as he
walked," SGT Colenso said.
"We knew where everything was
and the evidence and record of the
tracking of his detention was used to
still on track
EYES IN THE SKIES: Clockwise from
front, WGCDR Lyle Holt, FSGT Trish
Firth, FSGT Peter McSherry, FLGOFF
Stephanie Hall and SGT Justin
Colenso proudly show off the Heron.
Photo: ACW Joanne Larsen
ily to the US program. No changes to
Australia's project are necessary at
this stage and we remain on sched-
ule to stand up our first squadron
at RAAF Base Williamtown in late
2018," AVM Osley said.
"During his meetings with the
ministers and the Defence executive,
VADM Venlet made it clear that the
US Government was absolutely com-
mitted to making the JSF Program a
VADM Venlet also confirmed that
the US would purchase more than
2,400 of the fighters.
"Additional testing in the US will
be at no additional cost to Australia,
and Australia will benefit by receiv-
ing a more thoroughly developed and
tested aircraft," AVM Osley said.
"VADM Venlet is aware that for
Australia's decision in 2012 to com-
mit to the bulk of our JSF aircraft,
the Government needs confidence
that the program is making good
VADM Venlet told his audi-
ences that progress on the Australian
variant was going well and there
was no 'show-stopper' to delivery of
Australia's first aircraft for training
and operational testing in the US in
"The JSF is absolutely the aircraft
Australia needs to replace the F/A-18
and F-111 and the RAAF will be the
first air force in the region to employ
such an advanced capability," AVM
SGT Andrew Hetherington
DURING Avalon 2011, 27 air chiefs
or representatives from around the
world came together to discuss issues
affecting their air forces.
CAF AIRMSHL Mark Binskin said
the Air Chiefs Symposium, held at the
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition
Centre on February 28, was an oppor-
tunity for the chiefs to discuss topics
of mutual concern.
"We looked at ways in which we
can work together in the future,"
AIRMSHL Binskin said. "We also
had the opportunity to discuss air
force best practice and ways we can
improve each of our air forces.
"To hold it in Air Force's 90th
year was very fitting, as it provided
an opportunity to reflect on our past
achievements and look to the future."
The RAAF has already begun to
embrace the future with the introduc-
tion of a number of new capabilities.
"With the recent retirement of
the DHC-4 Caribou and F-111, Air
Force personnel have already begun
retraining and reskilling for the next
generation of capability," AIRMSHL
"Four B737 Airborne Early
Warning and Control Wedgetail air-
craft have been delivered in an initial
capability and delivery of the F/A-18F
Super Hornet is well advanced.
"The Heron Remotely Piloted
Aircraft is now operational in
Afghanistan, the KC-30A Multi-Role
Tanker Transport should be intro-
duced this year and flight testing of
the F-35 JSF -- Australia's next gen-
eration air combat capability -- is also
well under way."
Air chiefs explore ways to the future
by CPL Steve
CPL Chris Holbert
YOURS, ON TIME AND ON BUDGET: Head of the US JSF program, VADM David Venlet and AVM Kym
Osley brief media on the status of the JSF program at Avalon.
Photo: AC Oliver Carter
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