11/22/2015: Newly appointed Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, recently visited the Air Task Group (ATG) in the Middle East region.
Davies is seen aboard both the KC-30A tanker and the Wedgetail AEW aircraft.
The RAAF ATG is operating at the request of the Iraqi Government within a US-led international coalition assembled to disrupt and degrade Daesh.
The ATG comprises six RAAF F/A-18 Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft.
Credit: Australian MoD:11/20/15
In an interview conducted in his office in Canberra in August 2015, Air Marshal Davies discussed the impact of the operations on the RAAF.
Question: What has been the impact of the operations in the Middle East on the RAAF?
Air Marshal Davies; We certainly have deployed fighters and air lifters in exercises and operations.
But this is the first time we have taken an integrated air package to an operation. It is the first operational experience for both the KC-30A and the Wedgetail and the first time the Super Hornets operated (outside of Red Flag) with F-22s.
The Wedgetail operating with the tanker affected the scope of operation of each as well.
Historically, we operate tankers in assigned tanker tracks. With the communications and other links inside the tanker and with the ability of the Wedgetail to clear the way for the flexible operations, the tanker could move closer to where fighters in operation were most likely to move for refueling.
This means that you move yourself 60 nautical miles further north because the fighters you’re about to get next need to travel 100 miles to get to you. You could make it 40 miles and stay on station for another ten minutes.
This meant getting the job done more rapidly; and reduced the fuel burn on the fighters as well.
This operational shift was facilitated by the tanker not simply acting as a flying gas can in a pre-positioned location but able to operate as a mobile combat asset to support the strike force.
Something as simple as air-to-air refueling has been simple because it’s a track at a time at an altitude with a frequency and an upload. We’re saying we can make it more complicated with the right information and be much more effective in the battle space because of situational awareness.
Question: And this would not have happened if the RAAF leadership had not decided to put the assets in the hands of the warfighter rather than waiting for some procurement official to declare IOC?
Air Marshal Davies: That is exactly right. We put these assets in the hands of the warfighter to use and to determine what systems needed to be further developed in order to achieve the operational readiness, which the warfighters actually sought.
Both platforms took time to evolve to the point where we could effectively use them; but we put them into the hands of the warfighters more rapidly than traditional procurements approaches would allow.
This is certainly part of what we mean by Plan Jericho – let the warfighters have a decisive say on what is needed from an operational standpoint, in terms of what the fleet can deliver rather than simply upgrading individual platforms organically.
And getting into operations is crucial in terms of operator confidence and coalition capabilities.
With the Wedgetail deployed, allies got use to it and considered it a very reliable asset and the radar performance to be extraordinary.
Without that operational confidence, the asset will not be used as often or as effectively.
We see this as part of the Plan Jericho approach – get into the hands of the operators to determine what capabilities are best next and from which platform?
What does a .02DB Delta on a radar range mean for an operator?
I don’t know.
Let’s give it to the operators and find out.
And that’s what we’ve done.