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More Defence news: 23 November 2009 - 29 November 2009

New helicopter in capital display | Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan | Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan | End of an era for Caribou | Wedgetail delivery announced | First JSF acquisition announced | King Air joins RAAF fleet | New ADF relocation provider announced | Royal honours for Navy commander

New helicopter in capital display

A Royal Australian Navy (RAN) MRH-90 helicopter lands at Russell Offices.

27 November - One of the ADF’s new Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH90) has been displayed in front of hundreds of people in Canberra.

The MRH90 will replace both the Navy Sea King and Army Black Hawk fleets.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet said the MRH90 was a new generation of rotary wing aircraft featuring state-of-the-art cockpits and composite fuselages.

“The weather radar, forward-looking infrared sensor and night vision devices are fully integrated to enhance the ADF’s ability to operate aircraft in challenging conditions,” Mr Combet said

Mr Combet said the ADF plans to introduce 46 aircraft across Army and Navy.

“The new aircraft will be based at Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment in Townsville and 6th Aviation Regiment in Holsworthy, Navy’s 808 Squadron in Nowra, and at the Army Aviation Training Centre in Oakey,” Mr Combet said.

More: Imagery | Video

Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan

27 November - Defence Minister John Faulkner has reaffirmed that troop numbers in Afghanistan will remain the same and that Australia will not take a lead role in Uruzgan province after the planned draw down of Dutch troops from August next year.

In his latest Parliamentary statement on Afghanistan, Senator Faulkner said Australia would continue to engage with NATO on how the ADF could best contribute to the war effort.

“We have made it clear we cannot and will not lead in Uruzgan,” Senator Faulkner said.

“I stressed that it is NATO’s responsibility to resolve this issue as a priority.

“I sincerely hope that after August next year they [Dutch forces] will be able to continue some of their commitments in Uruzgan to build on the crucial gains that have been made.

“For now, we have an important job to do, we must do it well, and we must complete it.”

Senator Faulkner said Australian service personnel would not stay in Afghanistan any longer than necessary. 

“This is what the Australian people want.  And importantly, it is what the people of Afghanistan want,” Senator Faulkner said.

Senator Faulkner also announced that Australia has pledged a US$200 million contribution to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, making Australia the second largest contributing nation after the United States.

“Australia also contributes significant additional aid to Afghnistan, with an additional $250 million pledged over the next three years,” Senator Faulkner said.

“We believe we have struck the right balance between training and mentoring Afghan forces, protecting the civilian population, and effectively countering the Taliban.

“This balance is designed to achieve our objectives in southern Afghanistan, and provide a significant contribution to coalition efforts.”

More: Transcript

End of an era for Caribou

26 November - The Royal Australian Air Force’s Caribou aircraft has been retired from service after a career spanning more than four decades.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet said Australia’s Caribou have had an illustrious career over the past 45 years.

“…their record is a testament to all who worked on and flew the aircraft,” Mr Combet said.

Famed for its ability to take off and land on short and unprepared airstrips, the ADF received 29 Caribou aircraft between 1964 and 1971.

“This aircraft has served in Vietnam, supported United Nations efforts in Kashmir, and has seen extensive service in South East Asia and across the South Pacific,” Mr Combet said.

Mr Combet said that age, serviceability and performance issues had started to affect the aircraft’s ability to operate efficiently.

As an interim measure, the Caribou fleet has been replaced by the King Air aircraft, providing a modern and efficient transport capability.

Mr Combet said that one Caribou would be sent to the Air Force Museum at Point Cook, while another will be presented to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra for display.

Wedgetail delivery announced

26 November - Two Wedgetail surveillance aircraft have been accepted for initial delivery before a period of testing and familiarisation training.

Wedgetail program manager Air Vice Marshal Chris Deeble said the aircraft was critical to Australia's air combat capability.

"The Wedgetail aircraft is a first of type development and extremely complex given the range of cutting-edge radar technology and sensors that will be incorporated into each aircraft," Air Vice Marshal Deeble said.

"Development, test and evaluation are still ongoing with many hurdles still to be overcome, particularly with respect to radar, electronic support measures and integrated system performance and stability.”

Air Vice Marshal Deeble said Defence would now be able to conduct familiarisation training while Boeing completes the remaining test program and acceptance activities.

"When fully operational, Wedgetail will enhance surveillance, air defence, fleet support and force coordination operations," Air Vice Marshal Deeble said.

Boeing has scheduled initial acceptance of the first two aircraft in early 2010 when the aircraft will come into Commonwealth ownership.

The Commonwealth will eventually acquire six Wedgetail aircraft at a cost of more than $4 billion Australain dollars.

First JSF acquisition announced

A-Variant Joint Strike Fighter. Credit; Courteous of Lockheed Martin
Click on image for an enlarged version.

25 November - The Australian Government has approved a $3.2 billion acquisition program for the Air Force’s first 14 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF).

Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner said the decision followed years of unprecedented evaluation and planning by all countries involved in the JSF’s development.

“Defence has done more analysis on this platform than any other platform in the acquisition history of the ADF,” Senator Faulkner said.

Senator Faulkner said the approval for the remaining JSF aircraft would be considered in 2012, fulfilling Defence’s White Paper commitment to acquire three operational squadrons comprising not fewer than 72 aircraft.

Acquisition of an additional operational squadron – bringing the total number of JSF aircraft to around 100 – will be considered in conjunction with a future decision on the withdrawal of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.

“By 2012, Defence will have much firmer cost estimates for the remaining aircraft…as part of the planned first multi-year buy that is expected to comprise over 1000 aircraft for the US, Australia and other partners,” Senator Faulkner said.

“This will allow for much more effective planning of the final JSF acquisition in the context of the overall Defence Capability Plan.”

Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet said the Government’s acquisition decision would allow JSF industry partners to establish formal relationships with Australian industry.

“Our commitment to the JSF will allow Australian industry to become integrated into the global JSF support system, ensuring our aircraft are supported in the most cost effective way,” Mr Combet said.

“Commitment to the JSF also opens up opportunities for Australian industry to contribute to regional and global support of the JSF.”

King Air joins RAAF fleet

32 Squadron King Air K-350

25 November - Three Army King Air 350 aircraft have been transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force as an interim replacement for its soon-to-be-retired Caribou fleet.

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin said that three King Air aircraft were already based at Townsville, to be joined by five new King Air in the first half of next year.

“The King Air is a far more advanced aircraft than the 1950s-era Caribou, being able to cruise at more than three times the altitude, twice the speed and twice the range,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

The King Air is equipped with turboprop engines and modern avionics and is ideally suited for moving people quickly across northern Australia and throughout the region.

“This is especially important when we are called on to provide assistance to the civil community within Australia and on disaster relief efforts in our neighbourhood,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

Air Marshal Binskin said Air Force pilots and technicians would gain experience working on a modern aircraft, allowing them to more efficiently transfer to other parts of the RAAF fleet.

“The new fleet of King Air can provide a degree of efficiency and reliability which we have struggled to achieve with our fleet of ageing Caribou,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

More: Image Gallery

New ADF relocation provider announced

24 November - The preferred company to undertake all removal and relocation administration services for ADF members has been announced.

From 1 July next year, Toll Transport Pty Ltd, trading as Toll Transitions Pty Ltd, will be responsible for relocating about 23,000 ADF members and their families annually.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet said the proposed five-year contract was a combination of two previous contracts.

“This streamlined approach allows ADF members further convenience and less red tape when they are required to move,” Mr Combet said.

Mr Combet said industries such as removalists, accommodation providers and airlines would benefit from this agreement through sub-contracting arrangements.

The total cost of both removal and relocation components is more than $1 billion for the first five years.

Defence expects to sign the contract with Toll once the contractual issues are finalised.

Royal honours for Navy commander

Commander Peter Thompson, RAN, is honoured by His Majesty, The King of Tonga, George Tupou the Fifth, by being appointed as an Officer of the Royal Military Order of Saint George, whilst HMAS Tobruk was in the capital city of the Kingdom of Tonga, Nuku 'alofa on Operation Samoa Assist.

23 November - The King of Tonga has honoured HMAS Tobruk’s commanding officer for his role in the humanitarian relief effort to the disaster-stricken region.

The Officer of The Royal Military Order of St. George, the King’s fourth highest military honour, was presented to Commander Peter Thompson at a ceremony held in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa.

The King of Tonga, George Tupou V, said he “very much appreciated” the work the Navy and the Australian Government had done to help the region’s tsunami-affected communities.

Commander Peter Thompson said the operation was a chance for the ADF to help Australia’s Pacific neighbours.

 “I am honoured and humbled to receive this award on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Government,” Commander Thompson said.

The relief effort saw Tobruk carry more than 500 tonnes of humanitarian aid supplies to assist local groups and agencies such as the Red Cross.

The total assistance by the Australian Government, non-government organisations and the Australian public in both Samoa and Tonga now stands at $13 million.

More: Image Gallery