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Masters of surveillance
The role of Air Surveillance Operators is examined in the first article in what will be a regular feature on the different musterings.

Leading Aircraftwoman Karen Barnett performs surveillance duties with No. 3 Control and Reporting Unit.
Leading Aircraftwoman Karen Barnett performs surveillance duties with No. 3 Control and Reporting Unit.
Photo by LAC Clint Siggins
By WOFF Col Peat

AUSTRALIA is a large continent and from its coastline stretch vast areas of ocean and sky.

The surveillance and security of Australia’s skies is the responsibility of the Air Force, specifically members of No. 41 Wing within the Surveillance and Control Group (SCG). 41WG units, using sophisticated electronic equipment, detect, identify and control the interception by fighter aircraft of enemy, unknown aircraft or surface vessels, a task which is challenging, exciting and rewarding.

The two major roles of Air Defence are the surveillance of the area of responsibility and the control of fighters. The primary objective of air surveillance is to establish and maintain an up-to-date and accurate picture of air and surface activities within Australia’s airspace using a network of radars. The major objective of controlling fighters is the timely and accurate interception of targets using the available assets in the most efficient and effective manner.

To accomplish these two roles the Air Force operates a network of radars within Australia. During exercises, other surveillance and control elements, such as Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft, RAN ships and civilian agencies may provide additional information or control options.

An Australian designed and built Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR) is now operational and feeds long-range surveillance information into the network. Three OTHRs provide surveillance coverage of all of northern Australia and its approaches. This network is referred to as Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). Air Surveillance Operators (ASOPs) are employed extensively within the JORN system.

To assist in the achievement of the Air Defence roles, ASOPs are primarily concerned with the surveillance aspects. They are trained to operate radar systems, high technology computers, advanced display systems, extensive communications systems (including satellite data links), and intelligence equipment used in air and surface surveillance operations. ASOPs gain valuable experience working with both coalition air forces and Australian joint forces in defence exercises regularly conducted in Australia.

The majority of ASOPs are employed at one of the Control and Reporting Units (CRUs) and within the JORN at No. 1 Radar Surveillance Unit (RSU). Although most are employed at 3CRU (Williamtown), SACTU (Williamtown), 114MCRU (Darwin) or 1RSU (Edinburgh), owing to the various skill sets that ASOPs hold, they can offer support to other employment groups. For example, the mustering currently has a number of personnel employed in Air Traffic Control flights.

The ASOP mustering is one of the few trades that has grown in numbers in the past couple of years and enjoys the challenge of new equipment and capability being brought into ADF service.

For more information about ASOPs, contact mustering sponsor Warrant Officer Col Peat at (02) 492 86156 or col.peat@defence.gov.au.

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