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Air Combat Group (ACG) has
successfully completed Heron
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)
training in Australia for the first
The training was conducted
at the Woomera Test Range in
Operators have previously
u ndertaken their training in
ACG's No. 5 Flight manages
the Heron capability.
Made up of a handful of mem-
bers, the unit is responsible for
the selection, force preparation
and operational Heron flying
training of RPA operators and
support personnel before they
deploy to Afghanistan.
CO 5FLT WGCDR Lyle
Holt said training personnel in
Australia was "another major step
forward to ensuring our person-
nel are highly skilled and pre-
pared for International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) opera-
tions in Afghanistan".
The one-tonne aircraft is capa-
ble of medium-altitude, long-
endurance flights. Equipped with
infrared and optical sensors, RPAs
range out to 250km, download-
ing video imagery to Australian
"RPAs are rapidly becoming
indispensable as surveillance and
intelligence gathering capabili-
ties in the fight against terrorism,"
WGCDR Holt said.
"This technology gives our
ground commanders a compre-
hensive understanding of the situ-
ation around them both day and
The Heron's primary roles are
unarmed offensive air support,
and intelligence, reconnaissance
Its capability helps to protect
Australian and ISAF personnel,
as well as Afghan families, from
insurgent activity such as the
laying of improvised explosive
"The Heron's vital mission is
to support our Mentoring Task
Force and Special Operations
Task Group as we build
Afghanistan's capacity to protect
itself," WGCDR Holt said.
"The RPA capability is about
helping to save the lives of our
soldiers, our ISAF partners and
the Afghan population."
The Australian Heron detach-
ment is drawn from across the
Navy, Army and Air Force. The
deployed team includes vehi-
cle operators (remote pilots),
payload operators, intelligence
officers, geospatial imagery ana-
lysts, warfare staff, engineers,
administrative and logistics per-
"The RPA and its operators
have proven to be highly effec-
tive as one of the ADF's integral
network-centric warfare capabili-
ties," WGCDR Holt said.
The Heron commenced opera-
tions in Afghanistan in January
2010, and during its first year of
operations has flown more than
See page 3 for an update on RPA
operations in Afghanistan. For
more information on the Heron
detachment, visit www.defence.gov.
FORCE PROTECTION: A Heron RPA prepares to take off on another mission from
Kandahar in Afghanistan. Its operators will now be trained in Australia. CO 5FLT
WGCDR Lyle Holt, above inset, says the capability is becoming indispensable.
Photos: AB Jo Dilorenzo and ACW Joanne Larsen
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