The Royal Australian Air Force is one of the oldest air
forces of the world. In March 1914 the Australian Flying Corps was
established. On March 31st, 1921 the Australian Air Force was established
as independent part of the Australian defence. Over the last couple of
years the order of battle is quite stable. The only major change took
place end 1989/early 1990 when all helicopters were transferred to the
Australian Army Aviation Corps. To be able to defend Australia against
foreign attacks the RAAF opened several so called bare bases. During the
'90s the last one was opened along the northern coast. These bases consist
out of a runway, taxi-ways and a limited number of shelters and buildings.
Usually no aircraft can be found here except during exercises.
Modernisation programs of the RAAF are indicated as
"Project Air". Currently several of these projects are underway.
Some focus on software or equipment updates for existing aircraft and
helicopters. But others have to sole purpose to introduce new types into
service. Recent Aircraft types to enter RAAF service are 33 BAE Hawk Mk
127 Lead-In-Fighter. These Jets are fully operational and Australia's
first students to complete fast jet training purely on the Hawk
Lead-in-Fighter aircraft graduated from the F/A-18 operational conversion
course in June 2002. Project Air 5216 Phase 1 acquired 12 C-130J-30
aircraft to replace the ageing C-130E fleet that was operated by the
RAAF No 37 Squadron from 1966 until 2001. These new C-130J-30
represent a major boost for the RAAF airlift capability. The RAAF are also
leasing two Boeing BBJ, which made it's debut before the public on June
26, 2002. Canberra-based 34 Squadron will operate two BJJs under lease
managed by Quantas Defence Services. The RAAF has signed a contract with
Boeing worth more than a $1 billion dollars for four 737 AEW&C systems
plus options for up to three other systems.
Wedgetail is a 737 airborne early warning & control (AEW&C)
system providing airborne surveillance and command and control capability.
Australia has also recently joined the JSF programme. Committing US$150
million over the ten-year system development and demonstration phase as a
level three partner will enable the Australian aerospace industry to
participate in the global development, production and support of the
project. The RAAF also has a requirement for 12-18 tactical airlift
aircraft by 2010 aircraft to replace the Caribou Aircraft. The RAAF's
shortlist includes the CN-235,C-295 and C-27J Spartan. Australia has been
briefed on the A400M as a potential C-130H replacement. Work is well
underway with F/A-18 Hornet Upgrade Project with work on Stage 1 complete
and Stage 2 underway which will see the introduction of the APG-73
Aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force :
Fighter/Attack Aircraft :
- F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Australia has confirmed that it will formally join the
Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. The Australian
Government also decided that the JSF is the most likely aircraft to
satisfy Australia's needs under Defence's $12 billion-plus AIR 6000
Project to replace its current fleets of F/A-18 Hornet and F-111 aircraft
from 2012. Defence Minister Robert Hill said that Australia will soon
become a Level 3 partner, investing A$300 million ($172 million) over 10
years in the system development and demonstration phase. THE Air Force is
expected to choose the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version of
the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to enhance Australian air combat
The rationale behind Australia's selection of JSF appears to be
predominantly capability based, with the aircraft's late generation and
readily upgradeable integrated avionics architecture and stealth
characteristics seen as major advantages over competing designs.
- F/A-18A/B Hornet
Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 Weapon System is a primary asset for
Australia's air defence. The RAAF currently operates a fleet of 71
F/A-18A/B aircraft (55 A-single seat models and 16 B-dual seat models).
Project AIR 5376, the Hornet Upgrade (HUG) Project, seeks to enhance the
ability of the RAAF F/A-18 weapon system to carry out its Air Defence
Strategic Concept tasks through to the expected Life of Type in 2015.
Phase 1 of the upgrade is near complete. Under this phase, the Hornets
are being equipped with improved communication and navigation capabilities
including a sixth avionics multiplex bus, new mission computers, a secure
radio system, a global positioning system, enhanced Identification Friend
or Foe system and the extension of the armament multiplex bus within the
outer wing. This phase of the upgrade is scheduled for completion in June 2002.
The Royal Australian Air Force, or RAAF, has embarked on the second
phase of the Hornet Upgrade Program. When the upgrade is complete, the
RAAF A (single seat) and B (two seat) model F/A-18
Hornets will be comparable to the latest C and D model Hornets. Replacing the original APG-65 radar, the APG-73 significantly adds
to the combat capability of the Hornet and gives the RAAF the ability to
upgrade with new software. Incorporation of the APG-73 is scheduled to be
complete in mid-2003.This is the most significant upgrade to the RAAF
aircraft since the aircraft were delivered between 1985 and 1990.
On October 24th, 1963 the Australian government announced
the purchase of 24 F-111C Ardvarks. The first F-111C was handed over to
the RAAF in September 1968 and that was the start of a lot of problems.
Problems with the wing structure made the RAAF refuse to accept the
aircraft and it took over three years, during which the RAAF leased 24
F-4E Phantoms from the USAF as a gap filler, before the first F-111C was
accepted. On June 1st, 1973 the first six Ardvarks finally arrived in
Australia and the last one was delivered on December 28th, 1973. End
1993/early 1994 the fleet was strengthened by 15 ex USAF F-111G Ardvarks.
All F-111Cs are Pave Tack (FLlR) capable, and provided with AIM-9M
Sidewinders for self-protection ( at present the F-111G lack these
features ). This capability will be enhanced by the introduction of the
AGM-142 Raptor ,and the completion of a digital avionics upgrade (AUP) for
the F-111C/RF-111C. The AUP is well underway, with the digital aircraft
currently operated alongside the familiar F-111Gs. Australia is the last
operator of the very capable 'Aardvark','Pig' F-111. They fly with No.1
Sqn and No.6 squadronof No.82 Wing, based at Amberley Air Force Base.
Boeing Australia Limited is the Prime Contractor for modifications and
upgrades to the Royal Australian Air Force's fleet of F/RF-111C strike and
reconnaissance aircraft. Boeing Australia has also recently partnered with
the Commonwealth to sign the Weapons System Business Unit (WSBU) contract
for the F-111 fleet. Under this 10-year agreement, Boeing Australia will
be responsible for deeper-level airframe maintenance and associated
through-life support activities. Boeing Australia has eight years of
proven performance with the F-111 aircraft at RAAF Base Amberley and in
the US with the F-111 Block Upgrade Program. Current plans include
an upgrade which will enable the RAAF to operate these bombers until at
Trainer Aircraft :
- Hawk Mk 127
The A$850 million Hawk Lead-in Fighter contract was signed
in 1997 with design, development, manufacture and creation of the support
infrastructure established in just three years. The Hawk Lead-in-Fighter
aircraft entered service with the RAAF in October 2000.
In total, 33 Hawk Lead-in-Fighter aircraft were delivered to the RAAF:
18 Lead-in Fighters are based with the RAAF's No 76 Squadron at RAAF
Williamtown, New South Wales; 14 aircraft are based with No 79 Squadron at
RAAF Pearce, Western Australia; and the remaining aircraft is on loan to
BAE SYSTEMS for completion of flight test instrumentation installation.
Australia's first students to complete fast jet training purely on the
Hawk Lead-in-Fighter aircraft graduated from the F/A-18 operational
conversion course in June 2002.
- PC-9 Turbo Trainer
Ordered in the mid 80's to fill a gap in the RAAF's training
program between the CT-4A's and the Aermacchi. The two seat PC-9 was
selected over an Australian built and designed turbo prop trainer the
A-10B ending the controversial history of the Australian Aircraft
Consortium. The RAAF's Flying Training School (2FTS) at Pearce started
their advanced training course with the PC-9 in 1989. The RAAF's display
team the Roulettes has also traded their Macchi's for the
PC-9's. Some 69 of these advanced trainers would be ordered, but this was
reduced to 67 on July 10 1986, when the contract was signed. The RAAF
became the first customer to specify the advanced Electronic Flight
Information System (EFIS) "glass" cockpit. The first RAAF
aircraft,flew on May 19 1987.
Transport Aircraft :
- DHC-4 Caribou
The A04 Caribou aircraft (also known as DHC-4 Caribou)
currently performs both troop and cargo transport functions. The most
cost-effective means of continuing to provide this light transport and
tactical airlift capability for the ADF over the medium-long term is to
extend the life of the ADF's Caribou aircraft for ten years. The
acquisition of a replacement Light Tactical Airlift Capability (LTAC) will
be considered at the end of this decade.
The RAAF has 14 Caribou transport aircraft that provide the capability
to operate from short airfields with rough or soft surfaces. This project
will extend the operation of the Caribou to 2010, from the previously
planned withdrawal date of 2002/03. This project provides funds to cover
increased maintenance costs associated with supporting a 35 year-old
aircraft, and to cover costs associated with sustainment of engines and
other aircraft equipment.
- C-130 E/H (J-30)Hercules
The Royal Australian Air Force was the first overseas
customer for the Hercules, buying 12 C-l30As in 1958.The original 12
C-130As were withdrawn from use in 1978 being replaced by 12 C-130Hs
deliveries starting in 1978. Twelve C-13OEs were delivered starting in
1966. The new C-130Js have replaced the elderly C-130Es.
The Royal Australian Air Force's fleet of 12 new generation C-130J
Hercules aircraft were formally accepted into operational service by the
Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston, at a ceremony Dec. 11
2001 in New South Wales, Australian. The C-130J has modern more powerful
engines, new-generation propellers and avionics, head-up displays and an
integrated avionics system that is software controlled. The C-130J-30
variant has a five metre fuselage extension that provides an additional
40% seating capacity and the ability to carry seven standard cargo pallets
rather than five. Altogether, the new C-130J-30 provides a level of
apability considerably greater than the C-130E or C-130H. The C-130J-30 is
now fully integrated into the RAAF's Air Lift Group at Richmond, NSW.
- B-707/-338 C
The RAAF uses five Boeing 707s. Four series 338Cs have
tanker pods on the wings, while a single 368 is used solely as a
transport. They are based at No.33 Squadron at Richmond.
Tankers were seen as essential by the RAAF to support the planned
Hornet force, and a request for tender for the conversion of these
aircraft was issued in October, 1987. Israel Aircraft Industries (JAI) won
this $15 million contract for the tanker/transport conversion. The
modification involved the installation of underwing pods for hose and
- Boeing 737-7DF BBJ
The RAAF are leasing two Boeing BBJ, which made it's debut
before the public on June 26, 2002. Canberra-based 34 Squadron will
operate two BJJs under lease managed by Quantas Defence Services. The BJJs
provide ultra-long range travel from Australia to almost anywhere in the
The two BJJs, with slightly differing seating configurations, will be
available for use by Australian VIPs. The RAAF Boeing BBJ is the first of
it's type to be operated in the South Pacific region and is part of the
Air Force's Special Purpose Aircraft fleet.
Support Aircraft :
- P-3C Orion / AP-3C Sea Sentinels
In November 1964 the RAAF selected ten P-3 Orion to replace the
Neptunes of 11 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond.The first was
handed over to the Australians on January 10 1969. Over its years in
service the P-3B Orion has seen great advances in technology, so various
avionic improvement programs have been implemented. These modifications
have resulted since January 1975 in the "Upgrade" designations.
The next major decision regarding the P-3 wing at Edinburgh was whether
to upgrade the older P-3B model or replace them with more P-3Cs.
Fortunately the latter course was chosen, and on June 29 1982 a contract
was signed for ten new P-3Cs. The P-3C also introduced to service the
Australian Barra passive sonobuoy system, and for search and surveillance
missions was equipped with an infra-red detection system. Another
improvement was the capability of launching the Harpoon air-to-surface
missile (ASM) up to 100km from its target.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Sea Sentinel Program upgrades and
replaces older, heavier, less capable, insupportable sensors, avionics,
and mission equipment of the P-3C aircraft. Under the RAAF Sea Sentinel
Program, Raytheon Australia replaces the data management system, radar,
acoustic processing system, navigation system, and communication
systems.The modified AP-3C aircraft meets or exceeds all RAAF operational
requirements. The Sea Sentinel Program significantly increases the
airframe life, improves mission availability, provides state-of-the-art
performance, and enables the aircraft to operate well into the 21st
century with designed-in growth and supportability.
More than 3 years
after the first aircraft was handed over for conversion, the RAAF is still
awaiting the entry into service of its upgraded AP-3C Sentinel Orions. The
'prototype' aircraft entered conversion in November in November 1997 and
made it's maiden flight on May 19, 1999. Five aircraft are currently held
at Raytheon's Avalon facility, in various stages of modification, and the
RAAF is refusing to release any more aircraft until the upgraded P-3s are
returned to service.
- Boeing 737 AEW&C Wedge Tail
Wedgetail is a 737 airborne early warning & control (AEW&C)
system providing airborne surveillance and command and control capability.
The Commonwealth of Australia awarded Boeing Space and Communications
(S&C), a unit of The Boeing Company, a contract worth more than a $1
billion dollars for four 737 AEW&C systems plus options for up to
three other systems. Boeing expects to deliver the first two aircraft in
2006.Australia has named Project
Air 5077 "Wedgetail" after our native eagle.
combines the new high-performance Boeing 737-700 aircraft with the new
technology Northrop Grumman Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA)
radar. Included in the platform are an advanced Identification Friend or
Foe (IFF) system; an expanded, passive electronic surveillance system; a
flexible, open-system architecture and a highly effective self-defence
capability. The 737-700 features state-of-the-art avionics, navigation
equipment and flight deck.The MESA radar/ IFF is the critical sensor
aboard the 737 AEW&C. The electronically scanned array is designed to
provide optimal performance in range, tracking and accuracy. The radar is
able to track air and sea targets simultaneously and can help the operator
maintain control of high-performance aircraft while continuously scanning
the operational area.