- Air Combat Group RAAF
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Air Combat Group
RAAF Base Williamtown
dates=7 February, 2002 - present
motto=Defend and Strike
Air CommodoreNeil Hart
name=Air Combat Group
82 WingThe Royal Australian Air Force's Air Combat Group (ACG) is the group which administers the RAAF's fighter and bomber aircraft. ACG was formed on 7 February 2002 by merging the RAAF's Tactical Fighter Group and Strike Reconnaissance Group in an attempt to improve the speed with which the RAAF can deploy its combat aircraft. The current commander of ACG is
Air CommodoreNeil Hart.
Since the Group's formation, ACG aircraft have deployed to
Diego Garciaduring Operation Slipperand formed part of the Australian contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. ACG also worked on Operation Guardian II, which was the protection of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and on Operation Falconer, which was providing a larger ground crew and strike force in Iraq. Other tasks have included support for Operation Acolyte ( MelbourneCommonwealth Games 2006) and participation in exercises such as Exercise Pitch Blackin Australia and Exercise Red Flag in the United States. Aircraft from the Group have also performed domestic security tasks and participated in overseas exercises.
It comprises No. 78, No. 81 and No. 82 Wings. No. 78 Wing RAAF is headquartered at RAAF Williamtown. It commands No. 76 Squadron, based at RAAF Williamtown, No. 79 Squadron, based at RAAF Pearce, No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, based at RAAF Williamtown, and No. 278 Squadron, which provides technical training specific to flight training. No. 81 Wing RAAF is headquartered at RAAF Williamtown. It commands No. 3 Squadron, based at RAAF Williamtown, No. 75 Squadron, based at RAAF Tindal, and No. 77 Squadron, based at RAAF Williamtown. No. 82 Wing RAAF is headquartered at RAAF Amberley. It commands No. 1 Squadron, based at RAAF Amberley, No. 6 Squadron, based at RAAF Amberley, and the Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU), based at RAAF Williamtown.
It is accountable for all of the Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet, F-111 and Hawk squadrons, as well as the PC-9A Forward Air Control aircraft. ACG is equipped with
McDonnell Douglas/ Boeing Northrop F/A-18 Hornets fighter and attack aircraft, General Dynamics F-111bombers, BAE Hawktrainers and PilatusP/C-9(A) forward air controltraining aircraft.
Establishment and purpose
The Air Combat Group (ACG) was created on 1 January 2002 with the merging of Two Force Element Groups, Strike Reconnaissance Group (F-111) and Tactical Fighter Group (F/A-18 Hornet, Hawk and PC-9A).cite web |url = http://www.f-111.net/RAAF-force-merge.htm |title = RAAF strike force merge |accessmonthday = June 15 |accessyear = 2008 |last = Kopp |first = Carlo |authorlink = Carlo Kopp] The ACG was tasked to deliver the core capabilities of Control of the Air and Precision Air Strike with the hope that it would allow the RAAF to more quickly deploy its combat aircraft. Although the fighter and strike elements will continue to operate as discrete units for some time, ACG will provide the opportunity for the RAAF to test the organisation required to deliver a range of combat capabilities.
Responsibilities and bases
Air Combat Group is one of the Force Element Groups in the Air Force. It has 145 aircraft, 163 aircrew and 2000 support personnel based across Australia. It is accountable for all of the Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet, F-111 and Hawk squadrons, as well as the PC-9A Forward Air Control aircraft.cite web |url = http://www.defence.gov.au/news/raafnews/EDITIONS/4402/story01.htm |title = RAAF News - Set to Fly |accessmonthday = June 16 |accessyear = 2008 ]
The Wings under the Air Combat Group are located at
RAAF Base Amberley, near Brisbane, Queensland, RAAF Base Williamtown, near Newcastle, New South Wales, RAAF Base Pearce, near Perth, Western Australia, and RAAF Base Tindal, near Katherine, Northern Territory. The Headquarters is located at RAAF Williamtown, NSW 2314. [cite web |url = http://www.gold.gov.au/osearch.php?ou%3DHeadquarters%20Air%20Combat%20Group%2Cou%3DRAAF%20Williamtown%2Cou%3DNEW%20SOUTH%20WALES%2Cou%3DMajor%20Commands%2Cou%3DAir%20Force%20Headquarters%2Cou%3DDepartment%20of%20Defence%2Co%3DDefence%2Co%3DPortfolios%2Co%3DCommonwealth%20of%20Australia%2Cc%3DAU&changebase |title = Australian Government Directory - Air Combat Group |accessmonthday = August 18 |accessyear = 2008 ]
Training and operational history
Air Combat Group maintains a busy training schedule for the air and ground crew on the F/A-18 Hornet, F-111 and Hawk. The Group's tasks have included support for Operation Acolyte (
MelbourneCommonwealth Games 2006) and participation in exercises such as Exercise Pitch Blackin Australia and Exercise Red Flag in the United States.
A detachment of four Australian F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft provided air defence for the US military base on the island of
Diego Garciaduring the campaign against the Taliban, which was called Operation Slipper. [cite web |url=http://www.peacekeepers.asn.au/missions/current_ops/Op%20Slipper.pdf |title=Peace Keepers - Operation Slipper |accessdaymonth=6 July |accessyear=2008 |publisher=Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association ] The initial detachment was provided by No. 77 Squadron RAAFbetween December 2001 and 10 February 2002. This detachment was replaced by a detachment from No. 3 Squadron RAAFwhich was deployed between 10 February 2002 and 20 May 2002. No further Australian units have been deployed to Diego Garcia.cite web |url=http://www.globalcollab.org/Nautilus/australia/afghanistan/adf-in-afghanistan-history |title=Global Collaborative - ADF in Afghanistan |accessdaymonth=6 July |accessyear=2008 |publisher=Nautilus Institute ] The United States Air Force commented favourably on the RAAF contingent's professionalism during this deployment.cite journal|last=Holmes |date=2006|title=RAAF Hornets at War|journal=Australian Aviation |pages=p.38]
Operation Guardian II
During Operation Guardian II a squadron was deployed to protect the March 2002
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting(CHOGM) in south-east Queensland. During this, the Australian Defence Forcepilots were given permission to destroy any hostile aircraft. This has not happened at any time during Australian peace time, but was deemed necessary because of the September 11, 2001 attackssix months earlier. [cite web |url=http://www.pmc.gov.au/annual_reports/2001-02/chogm/chogm.htm |title= Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - Annual Report 2001-02: Renewing the Commonwealth |accessdaymonth=8 July |accessyear=2008]
No. 75 Squadron deployed to
Al Udeid Air Basein Qatarin February 2003 as part of the Australian contribution to the invasion of Iraq (Operation Falconer). The squadron was equipped only with recently serviced F/A-18s, and its 14 aircraft were drawn from No. 81 Wing's three frontline squadrons. The other squadrons also provided pilots to bolster aircrew numbers in No. 75 Squadron to 25.cite journal|last=Holmes |date=2006|title=RAAF Hornets at War|journal=Australian Aviation |pages=p.39] The squadron saw action during the Iraq Warand provided air defence for high-value assets such as Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, close air support for ground troops and attacked other Iraqi targets. No. 75 Squadron flew 350 combat missions during the war and dropped 122 laser guided bombs.cite journal|last=Holmes |date=2006|title=RAAF Hornets at War|journal=Australian Aviation |pages=p.44] The squadron was prohibited from operating near Baghdadas the Hornets' electronic warfaresuite was judged to not be sufficient for such heavily defended air space. The squadron's rules of engagementalso banned it from conducting close air support in urban areas.cite journal|last=Holmes |date=2006|title=RAAF Hornets at War|journal=Australian Aviation |pages=p.42] No. 75 Squadron conducted its final combat mission on 27 April and all 14 aircraft returned to RAAF Base Tindal on 14 May 2003.
Headquarters Air Combat Group is located at RAAF Williamtown, with elements based at Amberley (Queensland), Tindal (Northern Territory), Pearce (Western Australia) and Williamtown (New South Wales). One hundred forty-five aircraft, 163 aircrew, and around 2000 personnel make up the ACG.
The current commander of Air Combat Group is
Air CommodoreNeil Hart, who had previously commanded No. 3 Squadron under 81 Wing, one of the three wings now under the control of Air Combat Group. Following that he was posted to the position of Director, Airworthiness Coordination and Policy Agency for the Australian Defence Force as a Group Captain, and this was followed by another joint position, serving within Headquarters Special Operations Command. He took up the position of Commander of Air Combat Group in March 2008.cite web |url = http://www.defence.gov.au/pitchblack08/people.htm |title = Australian Government, Department of Defence - AIRCDRE Neil Hart |accessmonthday = June 19 |accessyear = 2008 ]
Air Combat Group components
No. 78 Wing RAAFis headquartered at RAAF Williamtown. It commands No. 76 Squadron, based at RAAF Williamtown, flying Hawk Mk127 aircraft, No. 79 Squadron, based at RAAF Pearce, flying Hawk Mk127 aircraft, No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, based at RAAF Williamtown, flying F/A-18A and F/A-18B aircraft, and No. 278 Squadron, which provides technical training specific to flight training.cite web |url = http://www.airforce.gov.au/organisation/info_on/groups/air_combat_group.htm |title = Air Combat Group: Royal Australian Air Force - Info on... |accessmonthday = June 15 |accessyear = 2008 ] cite web |url = http://www.raaf.gov.au/organisation/groups/acg.htm |title = Air Combat Group: Royal Australian Air Force - Main page |accessmonthday = June 15 |accessyear = 2008 ] 78 Wing conducts operational training, both ground and air, on the F/A-18B Hornet and Hawk at Nos. 76 and 79 Squadrons and No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit. It currently has an increasing role providing simulator training to aircrews and maintenance personnel at Air Force bases across Australia.cite web |url = http://www.airforce.gov.au/organisation/wings/78wg.htm |title = No 78 Wing: Royal Australian Air Force |accessmonthday = July 1 |accessyear = 2008 ]
No. 81 Wing RAAFis headquartered at RAAF Williamtown. It commands No. 3 Squadron, based at RAAF Williamtown, flying F/A-18 aircraft, No. 75 Squadron, based at RAAF Tindal, flying F/A-18 aircraft, and No. 77 Squadron, based at RAAF Williamtown, flying F/A-18 aircraft. 81 Wing is responsible for the provision of combat air power to Australian and coalition forces through Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA) operations using three squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets, Nos. 3, 75 and 77 Squadrons.cite web |url = http://www.airforce.gov.au/organisation/wings/81wg.htm |title = No 81 Wing: Royal Australian Air Force |accessmonthday = July 1 |accessyear = 2008 ]
No. 82 Wing RAAFis headquartered at RAAF Amberley. It commands No. 1 Squadron, based at RAAF Amberley, flying RF-111C and F-111C aircraft, No. 6 Squadron, based at RAAF Amberley, flying F-111C and F-111G aircraft, and the Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU), based at RAAF Williamtown, flying P/C-9 aircraft. No. 6 Squadron is an aircraft conversion unit, rather than a combat unit. 82 Wing strikes designated targets and conducts reconnaissance with Nos. 1 and 6 Squadrons. Forward Air Control Development Unit is being used as a training unit.cite web |url = http://www.airforce.gov.au/organisation/wings/82wg.htm |title = No 82 Wing: Royal Australian Air Force |accessmonthday = July 1 |accessyear = 2008 ]
ACG is equipped with
McDonnell Douglas/ Boeing Northrop F/A-18 Hornets fighter and attack aircraft, General Dynamics F-111bombers, BAE Hawktrainers and PilatusP/C-9(A) forward air controltraining aircraft. Each of these aircraft has a different role.
The F/A-18 Hornets are modern all-weather
strike fighterjets, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets. Australia's F/A-18s were built during the 1980s and early 1990s and are currently being upgraded to improve their capabilities and extend their service lives. ACG operates a total of 71 F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets. The F/A-18A is a single-seat fighter and the F/A-18B is a two-seat variant which is mainly used for pilot training. The Australian Government is planning to replace the F/A-18A and Bs with the F-35A Lightning II from 2013 onwards. The F-111s will be replaced with F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft in 2010. The F/A-18Fs are considered superior to the F-22 Raptorin their ability to acquire and track moving ground targets, and will continue to be upgraded until the F-35s are delivered.cite book|last=Davies|date=2008|title=ADF capability review: Royal Australian Air Force|pages=p.4]
Bomber and reconnaissance aircraft
ACG's F-111s are long-range bombers and maritime strike aircraft. No. 82 Wing is equipped with 21 of the F-111C variant of the F-111, which is the unique variant developed for Australia. Four F-111Cs have been converted to RF-111C reconnaissance aircraft, but are still able to perform bomber missions if required.cite book|last=Davies|date=2008|title=ADF capability review: Royal Australian Air Force|pages=p.3] No. 6 Squadron previously operated ex-USAF F-111Gs as training aircraft, but these have now been retired.
BAEHawk, is a British advanced jet trainerwhich first flew in 1974 as the Hawker SiddeleyHawk. ACG operations 33 Hawks as trainers, and these aircraft have a limited air-to-air and land strike capability. FACDU is equipped with four PilatusP/C-9(A) aircraft, which are a variant of the single-engine, low-wing tandem-seat turboproptraining aircraft modified to perform forward air control tasks.
The Hornet Upgrade program (HUG) commenced in 1999. The project seeked and continues to seek to modernise the ability of the current ACG fleet of F/A-18A and F/A-18B aircraft and associated support systems. The upgrade project has been set up to elongate the time the Hornet's can run until 2018.cite book|last=ANAO|date=2007|title=Management of Air Combat Fleet In-Service Support|pages=p.3] The project is being conducted in three phases.cite web |url=http://www.defence.gov.au/dmo/asd/air5376/air5376.cfm |title= Australian Defence Organisation - Hornet Upgrade Program |accessdaymonth=8 August |accessyear=2008] This project was established to upgrade the F/A-18 fleet to combine enrichments that will allow the aircraft to more effectively perform its air defence tasks. The project is being conducted in three main phases, phase one has already concluded and phases two and three are currently in production.
Phase one is the incorporation of upgraded radios, mission computers,
Global Positioning System(GPS) navigation systems, upgraded Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), and several structural warranty modifications.cite web |url=http://www.boeing.com/global/Australia/BAL/DIVAerospaceSupport/hornet.html |title= Boeing Australia Limited - Hornet Upgrade Program |publisher= Boeing|accessdaymonth=8 August |accessyear=2008] cite web |url=http://www.defence.gov.au/dmo/asd/air5376/phase1.cfm |title= Australian Defence Organisation - Hornet Upgrade Program (Phase 1)|accessdaymonth=8 August |accessyear=2008] Commensurate upgrades were added to the following weapon system support systems, Operational Flight Trainer (OFT), Integrated Avionics Software Support Facility (IASSF), Support Equipment (SE), Computer Based Training System (CBTS), Mission Planning System (MPS).
Phase two was broken into four separate sections, phase 2.1 is for a
radarupgrade, phase 2.2 incorporated a link 16 secure data link, Multi-function Information Distribution System (MIDS), Cockpitfull colour displays (MDGU), Counter Measures Dispenser System (CMDS), Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing System (JHMCS), Tactical Air Moving Map Capability (TAMMAC), and the 19C Operational Flight Program. Phase 2.3 added the Electronic Warfare suite upgrade (Radar Warning Receiver, Radio Frequency Jammer) and phase 2.4 upgraded with the Target Designation System (HTDS).cite web |url=http://www.defence.gov.au/dmo/asd/air5376/phase2.cfm |title= Australian Defence Organisation - Hornet Upgrade Program (Phase 2)|accessdaymonth=8 August |accessyear=2008] The following support systems will also be either upgraded or replaced, the Operational Flight Trainer (OFT) to be replaced by the Hornet Aircrew Training System (HACTS), the Integrated Avionics Software Support Facility (IASSF), the Mission Planning System (MPS), Miscellaneous Support Equipment (SE), Computer Based Training System (CBTS), Simulated Aircraft Maintenance Training System (SAMTS) to be replaced by the Integrated Maintenance Training System (IMTS).
Phase three is broken into two separate parts, phase 3.1 of the HUG project will see the fleet undergo a structural refurbishment program with a number of aircraft undergoing the replacement of centre barrels and adjacent structural components. In addition, phase 3.2 started with an Aging Aircraft Audit (AAA), ongoing R3 Deeper Maintenance (DM) and minor projects such as
Night VisionCapability (NVC) will also be undertaken to ensure that the fleet can continue to perform its air defencetasks through to the Planned Withdrawal Date.cite web |url=http://www.defence.gov.au/dmo/asd/air5376/phase3.cfm |title= Australian Defence Organisation - Hornet Upgrade Program (Phase 3) |accessdaymonth=8 August |accessyear=2008]
HardwareAcquisition Contract was signed on 25 September 1998, and the Prime Contract was signed on 21 June 1999. The Aircraft modification started mid 2000 at RAAF Williamtown, and was completed with the last modified aircraft delivered on 19 June 2002.
The purchase of new AN/APG-73 radars was announced on 17 August 1998. The
Commonwealthaccepted a United States Foreign Military Sales case in October 1999, and then the prototype modification commenced on 21 August 2001. The first production modified aircraft was completed in August 2002 and the last aircraft was completed on the 27 August 2003. Phase 2.2, the Multi-purpose Display Group Upgrade (MDGU) and the remaining equipment will be installed in the 2006/2007 time frame. Phase 2.3, various systems, from BAE Systems, SAAB, and Elta has not been announced. Phase 2.4, commercial contract with Northrop Grumman for the Litening AT targeting pod, will receive the targeting pods during 2007/2008.
In Phase 3.1, the prototype activities, were completed in January of 2004. The production installation commenced April 2004 with completion expected in 2009. In Phase 3.2, the Delta Modification Prototype activities were completed in May 2005. The Delta Modification Production installation is set to commence January 2006 with completion expected in 2009 (conducted in conjunction with HUG Phase 3.1 installations). CBR Prototype activities will commence February 2006 with completion expected January 2008. CBR Production installation is to begin July 2007 with completion expected in 2011, but will be dependent on the number of CBRs undertaken.
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