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Into the future
Much to celebrate

ARDU members at work.
ARDU members at work.
ARDU members at work.
ARDU members at work.
Group Captain Steve Fielder in front of ARDU’s new home.
Group Captain Steve Fielder in front of ARDU’s new home.
Photo by LAC Rob Hack
The Hyshot scramjet launch.
The Hyshot scramjet launch.
Photo by LACW Simone Liebelt
As it turns 60, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit is looking ahead to exciting change, as LACW Simone Liebelt reports.

THE Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Base Edinburgh will focus on its future while celebrating its past on July 25.

Past and present members and friends of the unit will join in the celebrations, which will culminate in a reunion dinner in the ARDU hangar that evening.

Activities marking 60 years of the unit’s aerospace test and evaluation success will also feature an official welcome into service of the recently created Aerospace Operational Support Group (AOSG) by Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal John Kindler.

Tasked with the implementation of AOSG, Commander ARDU Group Captain Steve Fielder believes that its staged phasing will provide effective and comprehensive support to ADF operations through better coordination and control of specialist resources from ARDU and other support organisations.

“The aim of the AOSG will be to enhance and extend ADF combat capability through the provision of comprehensive, timely and integrated operational support,” GPCAPT Fielder said.

Traditionally responsible for test and evaluation, ARDU underwent major changes in the early 1990s when it incorporated aircraft and stores engineering functions and joined forces with the Joint Electronic Warfare Operational Unit (JEWOSU).

It also took responsibility of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation’s instrumented range at Woomera, which hosts a range of experimental activities from universities and other organisations.

GPCAPT Fielder said under the AOSG plan, ARDU would return to an organisation primarily responsible for test and evaluation, with JEWOSU and Aircraft Stores Compatibility separating from the unit to form “sister” organisations within the new integrated support organisation.

“The AOSG will formally bring together the air warfare enablers,” he said. “It will form out of the current ARDU organisation as a whole, with test and evaluation being just one of the activities associated.”

AOSG employs more than 350 tri-service and civilian members and serves a wide customer base from its four disciplines of aircraft systems engineering, test and evaluation, aircraft stores compatibility engineering and electronic warfare operational support.

Through a robust airworthiness procedure, its test and engineering capabilities allow for the safe operation of aircraft outside of standard flight envelopes.

Tasks range from an upgraded F-111 engine to a Hawk and B-707 aircraft air-to-air refuelling trial.

“We support aerospace development for Air Force and Army, developing future capability, and by doing trials and tasks on certain pieces of equipment to reduce risk into the future,” GPCAPT Fielder said.

JEWOSU provides advice on operational mission planning and supports electronic warfare test and evaluation tasks. Aircraft Stores Compatibility designs and approves the carriage and employment of new stores on RAAF aircraft.
In the long term, AOSG may also include other specialist organisations, such as the Institute of Aviation Medicine, in providing support capabilities to operational activities.

“ARDU will continue to be the centre of excellence in ADF aerospace test and evaluation with its role being complemented by the AOSG’s other functional capabilities,” GPCAPT Fielder said.

ARDU’s history

IN World War II a link was required between the developing aircraft industry and the operational elements of the Air Force.

As a forerunner to ARDU, the Special Duties and Performance Flight was formed at RAAF Base Laverton in 1941 and attached to No. 1 Aircraft Depot. In 1943 it was replaced with the No. 1 Air Performance Unit.

As predecessor of ARDU, 1APU was responsible for the testing of aircraft types from local production and overseas introduced into RAAF service during the conflict, including the Boomerang, the Spitfire and the Kittyhawk.

After WWII, the unit moved from RAAF Base Laverton to Point Cook before being renamed ARDU in 1947. Returning to Laverton the following year, ARDU’s role in aircraft test and evaluation expanded to include two detachments, operating out of Mallala in South Australia and Richmond in NSW.

Another detachment was later established in Edinburgh, South Australia, which in 1977 became the home of ARDU.

In 1991, the Defence Science and Technology’s Range Measurement Branch was integrated with ARDU, bringing with it the responsibility of the Woomera instrumented range, a 2000 square kilometre prohibited area in the South Australian desert.

Expanding its role to incorporate operational support in 1992, ARDU amalgamated with the Joint Electronic Warfare Operational Support Unit, also located at Edinburgh.

Now, a new chapter of ARDU’s history has begun, with the unit relocating from its old Edinburgh facility – occupied 26 years ago – to a new purpose-built facility on RAAF Base Edinburgh.

Major projects

SIXTY years of aerospace test and evaluation involvement has produced a long list of successful projects for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU).

In conjunction with laboratory research and government departments, manufacturers and scientific organisations, ARDU has conducted a range of interesting and challenging full-scale and joint research and development trials.

Over the past 60 years, ARDU has tested every aircraft type introduced into Royal Australia Air Force service, from the Mustang to the Hawk 127 Fighter, and participated in scientific experiments and research on other aircraft and equipment.

Some early projects included the development and testing of the flight suit and G-suit, experiments on remote controlled aircraft prototypes, cloud-seeding experiments in Dakota aircraft, and cosmic ray research in Lincoln aircraft.

Modern trials have included development of a new life raft for the Air/Sea Rescue Kit for the P-3 Orion, live-fire testing of the AGM-142 missile for the F-111, test and evaluation support of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, and paratroop trials of the new C-130J Hercules.

ARDU have also assisted with some dynamic experiments in the Woomera instrumented range, including the University of Queensland’s Hyshot scramjet rocket launch and the Japanese supersonic rocket launch, which tested payloads at extreme speeds. In 2004, NASA plan to test the X-38, an emergency crew return vehicle for the International space station, at Woomera before launching it into orbit.

In the future, ARDU will conduct flight testing of the Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft – to be introduced into service in 2006 – and will contribute to major projects to upgrade the air-to-air refuelling and fighter capabilities.
Results from ARDU projects have led to developments, improvements and innovations in aerospace technology, and have guaranteed the future of ARDU as Australia’s leader in military aircraft test and evaluation.

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