Home' Air Force News : November 24th 2011 Contents 5
November 24, 2011
LS Paul Berry
THE sixth rotation of the Heron Remote-
ly Piloted Aircraft detachment is flying
further and longer than ever in support of
Australian troops in Afghanistan.
The RAAF-led ADF detachment has
matured over its two-year operational
life to offer an intelligence, surveil-
lance, reconnaissance package tailor-
made for its Australian and coalition
CO Heron Detachment Rotation 6
WGCDR Ian Goold said there had been
a number of significant changes to the
Heron operation in the past few months.
He said the introduction of the
Airborne UHF Transmitter Receiver
Relay (AUTRY) system and a contrac-
tual change with Canadian Heron lessor
MacDonald, Dettweiler and Associates
Ltd (MDA) had significantly increased
the service they could offer their cus-
"AUTRY means that our pilot can
talk directly with troops on the ground,
while they are on the move, which
increases our capability to provide
timely threat warnings and other intel-
ligence," WGCDR Goold said.
"Secondly, our rate of effort has
increased significantly since the main-
tenance contract with MDA has been
"Up until July this year the average
was about 360 flying hours per month
and since July we are averaging more
than 500 hours."
The new contract allowed for an
increased number of Heron launches
per month, meaning his team can con-
duct persistent operations over a num-
ber of days and support troops without
The RPA are flown from the 'Heron
lair' compound at Kandahar Airfield.
A pilot and payload operator sit
in the Ground Control Station while
a team of analysts man the Ground
Mission Station in a room next door,
watching and analysing the full motion
Photographer CPL Amanda
Campbell, who is working in a geosp-
tial imagery intelligence analyst role,
said watching a mission unfold and
passing information to the customer in
real time was a big responsibility.
"We have one imagery analyst
watching the screen all the time and
analysing what's going on while the
other reports everything to the custom-
er," CPL Campbell said.
"What you see and what you analyse
can affect someone's life, so you have
to know your stuff," she said.
Payload operator FLTLT Zalie
Munro-Rustean said her previous job as
an F-111 navigator set her up well for
the Heron operation.
"I act as a co-pilot to the air vehicle
operator (pilot) and during missions we
operate the infrared and electro optic
cameras to provide full motion video
coverage," FLTLT Munro-Rustean said.
"It's really good to be able to put
things in the bigger picture. Helping the
guys on the ground is very valuable and
it's good to know we are making a con-
tribution," she said.
WGCDR Goold said he was proud
that his team had not turned down a sin-
gle task request since August.
"The team are totally mission
focused. We are committed to support-
ing Australian and coalition troops -- to
assist them to complete their missions
safely and effectively," WGCDR Goold
"We have an excellent team per-
forming to an exceptional standard, and
I'm very proud of them."
detachment CO WGCDR
Ian Goold with the
Heron Remotely Piloted
Aircraft at Kandahar
Airfield and, left, payload
operator FLTLT Zalie
Munro-Rustean in the
Ground Control Station
at the Heron compound.
Photos: LS Paul Berry
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: CPL Amanda Campbell, a photographer deployed as
a geospatial imagery intelligence analyst, watches a mission unfold in the
Ground Mission Station at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
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