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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5820

Defence Procurement

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:47): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Can the minister update the Senate on how the government's investment in Defence's pilot-training system will help develop the next generation of ADF pilots?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:47): I thank Senator McKenzie for her question, because we are investing as a government over $1.5 billion in a new pilot-training system to ensure that our next generation of pilots has access to the most contemporary training methods and equipment. At the centre of that investment is the new Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft, which will replace the PC-9, which has been serving us very well since 1987. On Friday I had the privilege, with the Chief of Air Force and the member for Gippsland, our colleague Minister Chester in the other place, to welcome the first six PC-21 aircraft into RAAF Base East Sale. In total we will have 49 of the aircraft, and 42 of those will be allocated to pilot training at RAAF Base East Sale and at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia.

The PC-21 is only one part of a comprehensive new training system that will enable us to train more people faster and to a higher standard than our current program. The Air Force is acquiring seven PC-21 simulators, five of those to be based at East Sale and two at Pearce, and I can attest to the very impressive nature of those simulators, having experienced it on Friday myself. This is a capability which will enable us to have synthetic training of undergraduate pilots for the first time in the RAAF. The training system will produce multiskilled aircrew who are able to operate all our current and our future platforms, from our fighter aircraft to our C-17 transporters and everything in between. It's a very important investment—an investment in the long-term future of our ADF aviators. It is the skill and the professionalism of those men and women that is our greatest asset and, if we can support it with this capability, we should.

The PRESIDENT: A supplementary question, Senator McKenzie?

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:49): Can the Minister advise how the investment in pilot training will benefit the local community around RAAF Base East Sale?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:49): I certainly can. It's a great question from a senator for regional Victoria. In Gippsland, as I said on Friday, it was fabulous to welcome the first PC-21 aircraft with Minister Chester. This will establish the base as a training hub for Air Force. It will deliver long-term benefits for the ADF, but it's also a very significant investment for the local region. The relocation of the ADF's Basic Flying Training School provides a significant economic boost for the region and includes $200 million worth of investment in new facilities at East Sale itself. That will include new maintenance and training facilities and student accommodation to support the new pilot training system. It is fair to say that the student accommodation was in need of a timely upgrade. We anticipate that $17 million to $19 million will be injected into the East Sale region per year, which will create around 90 ongoing jobs. It is an important investment for regional Victoria and regional Australia.

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator McKenzie?

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:50): They are very welcomed jobs in that community. Can the minister outline to the Senate how else the government is creating a more potent, agile and capable Royal Australian Air Force?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:51): Senator McKenzie is using the words from the defence white paper. We are definitely committed to creating a cutting-edge fifth generation Air Force. We have particularly seen this take shape over the past year, which has been a truly historic period for the introduction of new capabilities. We have seen, in the last 12 months, the arrival of the first two Joint Strike Fighters at the Avalon air show in Victoria earlier this year. We have accepted all 12 of the EA-18G Growler aircraft into services, which gives us a dedicated electronic attack capability for the first time, and our fleet of the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft continue to enter service. In June the sixth of our C-27J Spartan battlefield air lifters arrived and that achieved an initial operating capability in December of last year. With all of that new capability coming online, particularly the fifth generation aircraft, it is a very exciting time and there are great opportunities for trainee pilots in the ADF. I encourage as many as are interested to join. (Time expired).