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Set to fly

February 2002

The RAAF Roulettes preparing for their dazzling Australia Day airshow over Melbourne.

A new era in the delivery of air power for the Royal Australian Air Force has begun with the inauguration, this month, of Air Combat Group (ACG).
The union of the Strike Reconnaissance Group (SRG) and the Tactical Fighter Group (TFG) to form Air Combat Group has combined the strengths and proud combat histories of these groups into a fighting force comprising more than 2000 people and some 145 aircraft.

ACG now manages the complete spectrum of the country's fast jet air combat power and is committed to deliver Australia's ability to control the air and conduct precision strike.

Led by Air Commodore John Quaife, who took command of the group last month, ACG has been many years in the planning and still has some way to come.

According to AIRCDRE Quaife, Air Combat Group will be introduced through three stages over two years with the transition managed by a dedicated project team.

The first step toward this single command structure was the 'stand up' of the new headquarters at RAAF Base Williamtown on 7 February. Stage One also introduced a new Development Unit to conduct training and to develop tactics and procedures for Forward Air Control as part of No. 82 Wing's strike capability.

Stage Two will develop arrangements to transfer responsibility for F-111 training from No. 82 Wing to No. 78 Wing. Permanent arrangements to transfer responsibility for F/A-18 precision strike from No. 81 Wing to No. 82 Wing will be developed in Stage Three.

Development of the group will also see a rolling series of attachments of Hornet squadrons into No. 82 Wing for specific exercise or training goals.

AIRCDRE Quaife explained that rather than focus on aircraft type or platform, ACG will manage air power by delegating responsibility to wings on the basis of core air power capabilities and operational training.

'Each of the Officers Commanding of the subordinate wings will be able to fight specific campaigns,' AIRCDRE Quaife said.'Operational training is conducted by No. 78 Wing, control of the air is conducted by No. 81 Wing and precision strike and reconnaissance is conducted by No. 82 Wing.

'These Wings will be assigned whatever Air Combat Group platforms are appropriate for those campaigns.'

ACG incorporates all the Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet, F-111 and Hawk squadrons plus the forward Air Control Development Unit, operating PC9/A aircraft.

The units that make up ACG are geographically diverse, spread between RAAF bases Amberley (QLD), Tindal (NT), Pearce (WA) and Williamtown (NSW).

And for those concerned about the formation of this new 'supergroup', in a recent interview for Logbook, AIRCRDE Quaife offered some advice.

'I approached this right from the start as if this was a change that was going to happen, and it was going to happen sooner rather than later. I have consistently viewed it as a change that represented an opportunity for us to really get some fair dinkum operational benefit.

'There's no doubt in my mind that if we really wanted to kick butt and take names then employing in a composite fashion was going to be the way to go.'

The ACG Commander has encouraged all Air Force people to get their hands on as much information as possible so they don't have questions about what ACG is and about and what it means. 'I'd like people to have a look at what opportunities exist, because I think there's going to be heaps,' he said. 'There'll be organisational opportunities and also individual opportunities for people to get a lot more out of their careers and a lot more from the Air Force's capabilities.'

While Air Combat Group celebrates its inauguration, personnel also remember those who have served in many of the flying units that make up the group throughout their long and distinguished histories. They have fought bravely and been highly decorated in flying operations in this region as well as the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.

AIRCDRE Quaife finally added, 'It really is a huge honour that Air Combat Group joins these units and delivers a new era of air power for the Royal Australian Air Force'.

ACG's 7 February Inauguration Parade will be covered in the next edition of Air Force News.

By Rebecca Codey and FLTLT Christine Bradley