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Address to the Air Power conference, Canberra.

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Senator the Hon. John Faulkner   Minister for Defence 



Royal Theatre, National Convention Centre, Canberra

Monday, 29 March 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land, and paying my respects to their elders past and present.

Let me also acknowledge:

• Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, AC, AFC - Chief of the Defence Force

• Air Marshal Mark Binskin, AM - Chief of Air Force

• Other distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia was just two years past Federation when the Wright brothers made the first powered flight. We are an island nation, both surrounded by, and containing, great distances. The wide blue sky above our wide brown land has always been a part of our strategic and security plans. As early as 1911, the Fisher government announced the intention to establish a military air service.

The fledgling Australian Flying Corps (AFC) had scarcely been formed before it was called upon to defend Australia’s national interests in World War I.

Following the war, Australia became the second nation in the world, after Britain, to formally create an independent air force.

Today, the global reach afforded by air power makes it an integral part of all defence

operations both within Australia and as part of expeditionary deployments across the world.

And air power continues to capture the public imagination as it did in both the First and Second World Wars, through its combination of cutting edge technology, powerful influence on air, land and sea operations, and the highly visible feats of

individual pilots.

Today, the four key roles of the Air Force are control of the air; strike; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or ‘ISR’; and air mobility.

In Australia, it is easy to take control of the air for granted, as it has been sixty-five years since Australian soldiers or sailors were killed as a result of direct enemy air attack. Nonetheless, the requirement for control of the air remains the fundamental and enduring basis for all joint operations.

The 2008 Air Combat Capability Review and the 2009 Defence White Paper both concluded that control of the air over our territory and our maritime approaches is critical to all other operations in the defence of Australia.

In relation to strike, the R.A.A.F’s strike capability allows Australia more scope to determine the pace and location of hostilities, and would impose major defensive costs on an adversary contemplating hostile action against us. Strike assets can, and have, supported Australian forces abroad, and offer a valuable option for contributing to regional coalitions.

Ladies and gentlemen, our control of the air and strike capability will be maintained and enhanced with two key acquisitions.

The arrival of the F/A-18F ‘Rhino’ Super Hornet will allow Australia to retire the F-111 in favour of a more capable platform, better able to meet future military challenges. In the nearly 50 years since the F-111 was designed, the air combat environment has changed to the extent where it is no longer able to provide all the capabilities that Australia requires.

The Super Hornet is a highly capable, battle proven, multi role aircraft that has already proved its effectiveness in service with the US Navy. Its flexibility will enhance all four aspects of Australia’s air combat capability, through maritime and land strike, suppression of enemy air defence, reconnaissance, air-to-air combat and close air support.

In addition, twelve of the 24 Super Hornets will be wired on the production line to enable, should strategic circumstances dictate, conversion to the electronic attack ‘Growler’ variant - the EA-18G.

The Super Hornet is a first class multi-role fighter, which will deliver a significant improvement in Australia’s air combat capability and enable Air Force to smoothly transition to the future JSF force towards the end of this decade.

I am pleased to say that the Bridging Air Combat Capability (BACC) Super Hornet acquisition is ahead of schedule, as was demonstrated last Friday by the delivery of the first tranche of five aircraft to Australia.

But while the Super Hornet will greatly enhance Australia’s air combat capability, it is the JSF which represents the next generation of air power for Australia. The JSF’s combination of all-weather strike, stealth, advanced sensors, advanced networking and data fusion capabilities will provide unprecedented situation awareness, survivability and lethality - allowing Australia to maintain its capability edge and control its sea and air approaches.

In November 2009, the Government announced approval for the acquisition of Australia’s first 14 JSFs, with the infrastructure, and support, required for initial training and testing.

With such a large and complex project there are, and will continue to be, risks. These risks are being carefully measured, mitigated and managed. |

That’s why Australia welcomes the recent decisive action by the US Government to keep the JSF Program on track. The US President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011, released on 1 February 2010 provides an additional investment of some US$11 billion for 43 aircraft and ongoing development and testing. This reflects the US Government’s strong ongoing commitment to the JSF Program as the backbone of the future tactical aircraft inventory for the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps and for partner countries, including Australia.

While there have been cost and schedule issues over the last couple of years, in a recent major development for the JSF Program the first Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing JSF - the most technically demanding of the three variants - completed the first Short Take-Off, the first hover in flight, and the first vertical landing.

This is a major milestone not only for the JSF Program but also in aviation generally - a supersonic stealth aircraft that can take off in short distances and land vertically.

I can report that ground structural testing has also been progressing very well with ground test aircraft completing testing at about three times the rate of earlier aircraft programs.

Testing of the stealth performance of the aircraft is also progressing well - meeting

predictions based on new technologies that will significantly reduce the time and cost of maintaining the stealth capabilities.

All JSF sensors are performing well in the labs and on surrogate test aircraft and will soon fly on the first JSF avionics test aircraft.

And by the end of 2010 the 19 test aircraft already on contract should be delivered to the flight test sites. The first production aircraft should be delivered to Eglin Air Force Base to commence training at the first Integrated Training Centre.

The Australian Government’s staged acquisition strategy for the JSF includes significant cost and schedule buffers to deal with project risks which will make sure initial operational capability in 2018 is met. Recent announcements in the United States in regard to the JSF timetable are still well within that buffer.

Ladies and gentlemen, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, always crucial to operations, have never been more important than on the modern battlefield.

Air Force’s ISR capabilities are a key element of all joint operations. The Air Force provides ISR systems with the flexibility to detect, locate, identify and track a wide range of targets in a variety of contexts. Australia’s geography and the breadth of

our national interests require the Air Force to own and operate ISR capabilities that can reach and operate over distant and wide areas, in the maritime, land and air domains.

The Government is introducing more persistent surveillance and reconnaissance platforms with high-fidelity sensors which will provide greater breadth, quality, usefulness and timeliness of data across the network. Integrating that data will enable superior situational awareness.

This means we will be more aware, earlier, of potential threats to ADF operations and will be able to respond more quickly and with more effect.

In mid April 2009, Government approved a proposal by the ADF to increase the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities afforded to Australian and ISAF ground forces in Afghanistan through the lease of a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System, the “Heron". This is Air Force Project NANKEEN.

The Heron is a one tonne UAV capable of missions in excess of 24 hours.

Within 90 days of approval, Air Force and Army crews were trained in this new capability and were available for deployment.

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions for the Heron included IED search, overwatch, and battle damage assessment.

Less than nine months after Government approval, Air Force Project NANKEEN now provides consistent, reliable ISR support for Australian, Afghan and ISAF combat and mentoring missions.

The experience that Air Force gains in operating long endurance UAVs in Afghanistan will also help shape the development of unmanned Defence capabilities for Australia through the next decade.

Ladies and gentlemen, the ADF’s ability to move personnel and equipment rapidly to and around a theatre of operations is crucial to combat operations and to responses to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Air mobility, the rapid movement of personnel, materiel and forces to and from a theatre of operations, and within that theatre, includes air logistics support, airborne operations, air-to-air refuelling and aeromedical evacuation. Perhaps one of the most memorable examples of the use of air mobility was the Berlin Airlift, an operation the RAAF was part of, flying 2062 of the more than 550,000 sorties and transporting 7030 tonnes of freight and 6964 passengers out of the 500,000 tonnes of food and 1.5 million tonnes of coal which supplied Berlin during the Soviet Blockade.

Our contribution to the stability and security of the South Pacific and East Timor creates a requirement for not only land forces but air and sea lift capabilities. Humanitarian and disaster relief tasks within our borders and beyond also require integrated operations in which air capabilities play a crucial part.

To meet these challenges, Australia’s defence force needs a wide range of capabilities which can be deployed with very little warning, including sea and air lift, aero-medical evacuation assets and medical support, logistics, and air traffic control.

The Hercules aircraft is the workhorse of the Royal Australian Air Force, conducting combat airlifts in the Middle East Area of Operations since August 2004, where they have just exceeded 20,000 flying hours supporting Australian and Coalition troops. Three aircraft are currently stationed in the Middle East. They are also frequently called on for short-notice operations in the South-East Asian and Pacific regions such as transporting humanitarian supplies to Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Tomas two weeks ago, as well as responding to domestic contingencies such as providing flood relief in North Queensland.

While the C-130 is the workhorse of the RAAF, the C-17 is the giant. The ability of the C-17 to provide up to four times the load carried by a C-130 over twice the

distance and much more rapidly has given the ADF the ability to rapidly transport large outsized cargo and personnel over long distances.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Defence Capability Plan will deliver further improvements to the RAAF’s air lift capability.

AIR 8000 is a project to provide the ADF with the latest in battlefield lift capability. AIR 8000 Phase 1 will provide two new C-130J Hercules aircraft, while AIR 8000 Phase 2 will replace the RAAF DHC 4 Caribou transport aircraft to provide a light tactical fixed wing airlift capability.

The planes will be able to operate from a wide range of rudimentary airstrips with a useful payload, range and in-theatre survivability.

Underpinning these enhancements to air combat, strike, ISR and airlift, the development and implementation of an integrated and adaptive command and control system will deliver decisions that enable precise engagement and permit real-time flexibility and adaptiveness when on operations.

Combining these developments with our Air Force’s time-proven skills in generating air power for operations will ensure Air Force remains operationally effective and relevant to the Government’s needs and the community’s expectations through time.

Ladies and gentlemen, the exciting possibilities of sophisticated air combat technologies often garner the most attention in discussion about Air Force, and indeed ADF, capabilities. But ask anyone in Defence what is the most important

capability defence has, and they will tell you: it’s our people.

Air Force recruitment is strong, with many young Australians attracted by the unique experiences available through the wide-variety of jobs in the RAAF. The opportunity to work for a modern organisation and learn the skills needed to operate and maintain some of the world’s most advanced technological equipment, while working to protect Australia and assist in vital humanitarian work, has seen many choose the Air Force as a career, and record numbers of Air Force personnel choose to stay in the service.

Air Force recruitment has a year to date achievement of 92% (411 from a target of 449), while total force separation rate (including personnel under training) at 1 January 2010 was 5.2%, compared to 7.3% at 1 January 2009.

Recruitment of Medical Officers continues to be the sole area of concern.

Of course, recruitment and retention are only part of the challenge. As well as having the right people, we have to make sure they have the right training.

The ADF currently conducts fixed wing flying training at three locations, Tamworth, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base East Sale and RAAF Base Pearce.

Project AIR 5428 Phase 1 will provide joint fixed wing pilot training for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The project aims to utilise basic and advanced training systems to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the fixed wing Pilot Training System. Specifically the system will:

• enable an increase in graduation numbers;

• generate pilot skills consistent with advanced 4th/5th generation aircraft;

• enable the withdrawal of current training media; and

• provide solutions for the integration of synthetic training systems.

AIR 5428 Phase 1 achieved First Pass on 22 July 2009.

Future Basing location has generated significant interest from industry, local interest groups and Local, State and Federal members.

Under AIR 5428 Phase 1, Government agreed at First Pass on 22 July 2009 that RAAF Base East Sale would be publicly identified in the tender documentation as a basing solution for the future basic flying training school, involving relocation of flight screening and basic flight training from Tamworth to RAAF Base East Sale, noting prospective respondents would be required to tender for another location in addition to East Sale.

All basing proposals will be considered on a value for money basis with the final basing decision being made by Government when AIR 5428 seeks Second Pass approval by FY2013-14.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Air Force of today and the air capability it provides is a key component of operations such as Operation Slipper in the Middle East and, closer to home, ADF operations to respond to the Victorian bushfires, Operation Padang Assist in the wake of the Indonesian earthquake, and Operation Samoa Assist after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami there.

The future Air Force will be carefully designed for balance against strategic need. It

will need to meet the requirements of a joint military and whole-of-government, national approach to Australia’s security. Air Force will need to operate seamlessly in the joint environment, be able to integrate with the United States, United Kingdom and other allied forces, and be interoperable with coalition and regional partners.

It has been a hundred and one years since King O’Malley’s prescient 1909 remarks on the importance of aircraft to the defence of Australia. O’Malley, of course, was true to his long history of taking a good idea to ridiculous extremes. He argued that aircraft would render an Australian Navy, perhaps even Army, unnecessary. The history of air power in Australian defence has, instead, been one of an essential component in an integrated force. There are things airpower cannot achieve alone: but today, nothing can be achieved without it.

As we approach the centenary of the decision to form a military air service for the defence of Australia, I am confident that the RAAF will continue to meet the emerging challenges of air power in the 21st century, and committed to ensuring they have the right capabilities to do so.

Media contacts:

Colin Campbell (John Faulkner): 02 6277 7800 or 0407 787 181

Defence Media Liaison: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664