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Tuesday, 22 May 2001
Page: 26815

Mr Ripoll asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 April 2001:

(1) Is 501 Wing RAAF Base Amberley being moved to RAAF Base Williamtown; if so, what are the details of timings and personnel changes involved at RAAF Base Amberley.

(2) Is there a proposal to reduce the number of Air Commodores at RAAF Base Amberley from two to one.

(3) What is the reason for the change in RAAF Base Amberley commanding officer structure.

(4) What effect will a change in commanding officer structure at RAAF Base Amberley have on the operations of the base and its ability to liaise with the community and provide a public face to the operations of the base.

Mr Reith (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) No. However, deeper maintenance for F111 aircraft, which is undertaken by 501 Wing, has been a long planned market testing exercise. Outsourcing has its origin with the Force Structure Review and the rolling Commercial Support Program, which commenced in the early 1990s. Final implementation and transition of 501 Wing deeper maintenance to contractor support has undergone several delays but is expected to be completed by the end of 2001.

(2) Yes. A study, which is reviewing the options for the amalgamation of Tactical Fighter Group and Strike Reconnaissance Group into a single Air Combat Group (ACG), is currently underway. It is most likely that the ACG headquarters would be located at RAAF Williamtown and would result in a reduction in the number of Air Commodores at RAAF Amberley. The study will present its findings later this year with a planned implementation of early 2002.

(3) The creation of ACG would enable a more effective air combat (strike/fighter) capability to be achieved and other operational, support and logistics synergies to be realised. This will be particularly important for the new air combat capability to be delivered under Project AIR6000. As detailed in the White Paper, AIR6000 seeks to examine options for acquiring new combat aircraft to replace the F/A-18 and F-111. Although there is considerable effort required to refine the AIR6000 options, including whether a single aircraft type can meet both the strike and fighter roles, a solution which provides for both strike an fighter roles could result in increased combat effectiveness and significant savings. The formation of ACG will allow a range of options to be explored and doctrine to be established. This should ensure a seamless transition to the capability to be delivered by AIR6000.

(4) Minimal impact to the base operations and community liaison is expected as a consequence of the proposed ACG reorganisation. RAAF Amberley base operations will not change under the ACG proposal. RAAF Amberley currently has two Air Commodores in residence, Commander Strike Reconnaissance Group (CDRSRG) and Commander Combat Support Group (CDRCSG). Headquarters Combat Support Group relocated to RAAF Amberley in 1999, raising the number of Air Commodores from one to two. Since that time, regional liaison responsibility has become a shared responsibility between CDRSRG and CDRCSG. CDRCSG's community liaison responsibilities are expected to be similar in scope to those of CDRSRG, prior to 1999.