Air Combat group set to fly

September, 2001

Hornet and Pig
On the first of January 2002, Air Combat Group (ACG) will form, replacing the current Strike Reconnaissance (SRG) and Tactical Fighter (TFG) Groups.

The new Group, first reported in Air Force News May 2001, will be aligned to the core air power capabilities of Control of the Air and Precision Strike.

Control of the air will be the focus of No. 81 Wing and Precision Strike, the focus of No. 82 Wing. No. 78 Wing's responsibility for training will be widened to include F-111 training and 82 Wing's duties will include all fast jet elements of Precision Strike including, F/A-18 aspects.

Transformation to the new ACG via a three-stage approach will reduce risk associated with such a major change, according to Air Combat Group Project Team leader, Group Captain John Quaife.

GPCAPT Quaife said, 'Three stages allows Air Force to adapt to any problems that may arise whilst progressively enhancing the ability to deploy composite Air Power in a prompt, effective and highly integrated manner.

'The key is to minimise disruption to capability and most importantly the people who currently work in the SRG and TFG Squadrons.

'Through the new group, Air Force is creating an environment that really will allow our people to do their best,' he said.

Importantly, the formation of ACG will have little impact on the daily duties of squadron personnel. Increased opportunities for personal and professional development are a key feature of the change and as the ACG matures, personnel will have greater ability to move between the fast jet streams within a wide variety of musterings.

Stage one activities, commencing from January 2002, will see a new ACG Headquarters formed at RAAF Base Williamtown. A Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU) will be established as an independent unit within 82 Wing but based at Williamtown. Other TFG and SRG units will remain within their current Wings, at current locations, so there will be minimal disruption at Unit level.

The headquarters of both SRG and TFG will disband when the headquarters of ACG is formed in January 2002.

To enable 82 Wing to concentrate on its operational capability of precision strike and reconnaissance, stage two of the ACG formation will investigate the best way to transfer F-111 aircrew and technical training from 82 Wing to 78 Wing.

This review will be timed to allow the recently revised F-111 conversion to course to 'bed down' before further changes to F-111 are considered.

The final stage of the ACG formation will look at how responsibility for F/A-18 precision strike capability should be transferred to 82 Wing. This stage will commence early in 2002 with the rolling assignment of 3, 75 and 77 (Hornet) Squadrons to 82 Wing for defined periods to allow for work up activities such as Exercise Pitch Black.

No. 77 Squadron will be the first squadron assigned to 82 Wing in 2002 to prepare for Exercise Arnhem Thunder. The results of these assignments will help to shape future permanent arrangements within ACG.

ACG represents a new way of fighting for Air Force; utilising composite wings to deliver combat effect. This is an exciting time and it will call on the skill, dedication and commitment of all involved.

Air Force must be well prepared for future requirements and varying contingencies. Through the maximum use and allocation of resources, as demonstrated by the soon to be formed Air Combat Group, Air Force will be able to continue delivering an aerospace defence capability for Australia.