4 March 2023
The Air Force and Army are working together at the 2023 Australian International Airshow (AIA23) to create and operate a bulk refuelling station to provide a complete ADF-deployed aviation fuel capability.
AIA23 Base Fuel Quality Control Manager and Aviation Fuel Supervisor Sergeant Tony Ahchow thought up the innovative concept as a solution to the capability gaps discovered while working at the 2019 air show.
“The need for this capability comprised three key elements: firstly, to test Military Aviation Turbine Fuel in a deployed environment; secondly, to hold a stock of military jet fuel in the Army Petroleum Operators (PETOPS) deployed fuel bladder; and, finally, to demonstrate joint capability between the services,” Sergeant Ahchow said.
Army PETOPS and Air Force Movements Tanker Operations wanted to test their ability to set up fuel storage at a blank airfield.
“I see this as a force enabler and force projection to enhance our capability through joint operations,” he said.
Sergeant Ahchow has had a great experience working alongside the Army.
“I have never met a person who wears the ADF uniform that isn’t focused on delivering enhanced capability,” he said.
“When presented with an opportunity to operate in a joint environment to meet a consolidated mission, we see the best in people.”
Corporal Norman McLeod, of the Army’s 9 Force Support Battalion, is the Aviation Bulk Fuel Installation Site Commander for AIA23, and is accustomed to employing his trade in an austere field environment. So to work alongside the Air Force at a civilian aerodrome has been a refreshing opportunity.
“It has gone fairly smoothly. The main difference I’ve noticed is that we’re now so close to civil infrastructure so we need to consider separation between the public and the fuel sites,” Corporal McLeod said.
“This is the first time that we’ve worked alongside the Air Force Tanker Ops for an extended period. We’ve built strong lines of communication between the two services working together on the ground and fostered some great relationships already.”
Fuel operations is just one instance where the ADF services are combining their skill sets to support the Australian International Airshow 2023.