Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 9 2009 Contents 33
at a glance:
Air Force’s oldest remaining aircraft, the Caribou, will
Approximately 165 000 people attended the Australian
International Airshow and Aerospace and Defence
Exposition at Avalon in March. About 65 000 people
witnessed the Defence Force Air Display at Townsville
in September, while about 10 000 people attended an
open day at RAAF Base Wagga in October
Airman recruitment rose to 91 per cent, while officer
recruitment also rose to 84 per cent. Separation
rates for airmen and officers also decreased by
about one per cent
Operation Padang assist: 850 passengers,
1.2million pounds (approx. 544 311kgs), 111 sorties
by C-130 and C-17 aircraft in just 26 days
Operation samoa assist: 60 passengers
and five sorties (in which RNZAF helicopters were
f all the events and
achievements that marked
2009 for the Royal australian
air Force, one particular
day provided the most
satisfaction for its chief, air
Marshal (aIRMsHL) Mark Binskin.
The day was 31 August 2009; one which marked
the repatriation of the last two Australian servicemen
missing from the Vietnam war, after Flying Officer
Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver were
lost without trace in their Canberra bomber, call-sign
Magpie 91, which failed to return from a routine
mission on 3 November 1970.
AIRMSHL Binskin said that while the day
was not the biggest achievement of 2009, it was
a moment that provided the most satisfaction.
“Bringing those final two airmen back was
an effort that was not just Air Force. Army, IP
(International Policy) Division and DSTO (Defence
Science and Technology Organisation) played a
significant part, so it really was a team effort.
“Seeing the looks on the faces of the families
and the veterans when the repatriation occurred
really showed that it meant a lot to a lot of people
around Australia,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.
represented on operations around the globe.
“But everyone’s getting tired. I understand that
this is a marathon and we’ve got to make sure we
pace ourselves continually.” This is sound advice
considering the way 2010 is shaping up.
“Across the board we’re asking the units to
really look at the way they’re doing business and
look at being fiscally responsible in managing
what they do and looking for better ways of how
they do it,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.
The Strategic Reform Program (SRP) alluded
to will also begin to take effect next year with Air
Force’s medium-lift program (C-130 Hercules), wide-
area surveillance with the JORN capability and the
Hornets all ear-marked for reform under SRP.
“We’re introducing the Super Hornets, we’re
introducing the KC-30A, while Wedgetail will also
start to mature, so they are each big challenges.
“We’ve got Project AFTER (Air Force Training
Education Review) which is starting to deliver the
new Air Force training and education program.
“We’re looking to increase female
participation rates and are actively incorporating
flexibile strategies. We would like to grow female
participation in the aircrew side and also look
for some of those non-traditional areas where
women may be wanting to serve.”
“And I can tell you now without even looking
at a crystal ball, that there will be humanitarian
assistance operations at least regionally and
maybe world-wide that we’ll be a part of. And
we’ll be well positioned to handle that.
“But at the end of the day, with all that we
have in front of us, the biggest challenge will be
not burning out our people as we do it. My focus
is to ensure that we can sustain ourselves as a
force into the future,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.
hroughout 2009, 38
squadron (38sQn) has been
preparing for the withdrawal
of the De Havilland Canada
DHC-4 Caribou aircraft from
With a planned withdrawal date of 31 December
2009, the unit recently received the Hawker Pacific
Super King Air aircraft on 20 November. The flying
unit has been under constant change since the
announcement of the Caribou retirement late in 2008,
which followed the relocation of its unit from RAAF
Amberley to RAAF Townsville in 2007.
The Caribou were the first RAAF aircraft
deployed to Vietnam and the last to withdraw, setting
a strong work precedent for Caribou squadrons for
the next four decades.
The aircraft has also excelled through its ability
to operate from short, unprepared runways in Papua
New Guinea, as well as the South Pacific, South-East
Asia and as far away as Kashmir.
Even during the aircraft’s final months of
service, the Caribou has been flown hard by 38SQN,
with several short take-off-and-landing missions in
Papua New Guinea conducted to maximise aircrew
experience in this challenging environment.
For the technical workforce, the completion of
trainee journals and involvement in deployments and
rescues has increased their maintenance knowledge
and proficiencies away from home-based operations.
Mounting costs, an ageing airframe, and lack of
commonality with the remainder of the Air Force’s fleet
led to the decision to retire the Caribou at the end of this
year. The Super King Air will be operated until the arrival
of a new light tactical fixed-wing transport aircraft,
to be selected under Project AIR 8000 Phase Two.
Commanding Officer of 38SQN, Wing
Commander (WGCDR) Anthony Thorpe was
appointed as the lead manager for the Caribou
withdrawal. A B300 Transition Team was established
under WGCDR Stewart Dowrie to manage the
transfer of three Army Aviation King Airs, along with
an additional five new King Airs to 38SQN service.
A unit withdrawal plan was developed to
capture the roles, responsibilities and milestones
pertaining to the unit, which has complemented
monthly withdrawal meetings at section head level.
Broad communication of these activities through
Airlift Group to Headquarters Air Command and items
managers in the Defence Materiel Organisation
(DMO) allowed informed and timely decisions for
the reallocation of assets to fulfill capability needs
elsewhere in the RAAF.
Joint Logistics Unit (North Queensland) was
identified as a key stakeholder to oversee the return
of all unit equipment and stores to their regional
warehouse for redistribution, storage or disposal.
Consequently, elements of Defence Support Group,
DMO and Joint Logistics Command have also met the
demands of 38SQN during this period.
The oldest remaining Caribou, A4-140, was part
of the initial three aircraft delivered to Australia in
April, 1964. Its final tasking will be when it arrives at
Defence Establishment Fairbairn before being handed
to the Australian War Memorial. The second oldest
Caribou, A4-152, will be handed to the Air Force
Museum at RAAF Base Williams, Point Cook. Other
aircraft have also been ferried to their resting airfields.
On November 13, a four-ship flight of Caribous
acknowledged the valued support from the
Townsville community in a fond farewell to the city.
defence magazine ›
fond farewell for
the mighty Caribou
By Flight Lieutenants Jeff Tanner
and Eamon Hamilton
By Michael Weaver
to position Air Force for these world events.
“We talk now about being a global air force
that’s responsive and inter-operable around the region
and the world and when you look at the operations
we’ve conducted, we are the first response.
“There we were in Samoa reacting to what
had happened and then Padang occurred. Straight
away we were already swinging forces towards
Indonesia while we were still supporting Samoa.”
The Air Force has also been able to show its
strength in air shows at Avalon, Wagga and Townsville.
There have been welcome-home parades for the
Control and Reporting Centre and Operation Catalyst
personnel, plus a raft of no less than 12 regional and
non-regional exercises, including Talisman Saber.
The Air Force balloon also rose to lofty heights when
it conducted a promotional tour of Arnhem Land,
achieving a flying rate of 16 hours of tethered flights
that carried more than 1000 passengers.
However, it is AIRMSHL Binskin’s priority
to maintain a first-rate air power via support to
operations that has left him in no doubt about
where his priorities lie. “Operations are now our
normal business and we’ve managed to make
sure we keep the raise, train and sustain motto
and the exercises relevant to what we’re doing on
operations,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.
“If I looked around the Air Force today, every
force element group is represented on operations
there’s even Air Force Training Group personnel
away on operations. From the Surveillance and
Response Group to Air Combat Group to AirLift
Group and Combat Support Group – they are all
But when AIRMSHL Binskin takes a moment
to wipe the brow and reflect on 2009, he, like the
vast majority of Air Force members, will have one
word that comes to mind – “dynamic”.
The first taskings came from border control
operations out of RAAF Base Learmonth and
further afield in the Christmas and Cocos Islands,
along with continued support to the Middle
East. That was followed by support to floods in
Queensland and bushfires in Victoria, along with
an increased presence of P3 Orions in Darwin.
More humanitarian support operations in
Samoa and Padang again saw the RAAF being
one of the first Government agencies to put its
hand up, while at the same time, heightened
levels of support to border protection and in the
Middle East did little to stall the commitment.
“So right across the board for the 14 300
people in Air Force, I think the tempo has been
very high and we have operated in a very dynamic
environment,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.
“That tempo has been matched by
Headquarters Air Command, the FEGs (Force
Element Groups) and Air Force Headquarters who
have done all the work to coordinate our efforts.
At one stage, Air Force had one C-17 going into the
Middle East Area of Operations per week, carrying three
times the amount of what the C-130s were carrying.
AIRMSHL Binskin said success in these areas
has come from a great deal of strategic planning
a Caribou cuts an imposing figre on the
tarmac at RaaF Base Townsville.
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