The introduction into Air Force service of an all-weather long-range air-to-surface missile passed another milestone recently when a test AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) was successfully released from an F/A-18 at the Jervis Bay range facility or the first time.
The test missile is designed to carry out carriage and release trials from F/A18 aircraft to determine safe release parameters. The test was coordinated by teams from the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), Air Force and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
Project manager SQNLDR Michael Spencer said the purpose of the trial was to determine if the aerodynamic flow permitted safe separation of a missile from the launch aircraft. Test pilots released the missile under typical operational flight conditions and delivery manoeuvres.
"The trial was conducted using a JASSM Separation Test Vehicle (STV), which replicates the operational JASSM and transmits separation data to a telemetry ground station operated by the Ranges and Assessing Unit at Jervis Bay," SQNLDR Spencer said.
DMO is acquiring the missile for Air Force through Project Air 5418 Phase 1 - Follow-On Stand-Off Weapon under contracts with Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force. The DMO project office is teamed with the Hornet Weapons Integration Project Team, from the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office, to integrate JASSM onto the Air Force 'classic' F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft and achieve the Initial Operational Capability by the end of 2009.
SQNLDR Spencer said the trial's success was made possible with support from other key Defence units including the Development and Test Wing of AOSG that provided the aircraft compatibility engineering expertise, test aircraft and crews; Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control that provided the technical expertise on the missile and its testing; the Jervis Bay Range Facility personnel with their telemetry equipment; 81WG for logistics engineering support; 78WG that provided a Hawk chase aircraft; and DSTO that provided wind tunnel testing and risk analyses.
"More Australian JASSM flight trials are planned as part of an incremental test program," SQNLDR Spencer said.
"This program builds on the results from each test to progressively improve confidence that the missile can be launched and operated safely over the range of flight altitudes, speeds and manoeuvres required to be used by our Hornet aircrews."
Meanwhile, other upgrades to the Hornet continue on track following the successful trialling of the new Raytheon ALR-67(V) 3 radar warning receiver and acceptance into service of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) missile.
The last four F/A-18F Super Hornets arrived at RAAF Base Amberley on 21 October 2011, completing delivery of 24 aircraft for Nos 1 and 6 Squadrons. The four new arrivals joined up over North Stradbroke Island with 16 Super Hornets already delivered, to carry out a mass flypast of 20 Super Hornets over Brisbane and the Gold Coast, before landing at Amberley.
The new jets and their crews were welcomed home by friends and family at RAAF Base Amberley with an arrival ceremony and a Super Hornet solo flying display. The Super Hornets achieved initial operational capability in December 2010 following the retirement of the highly capable F-111. Full operational capability of the Super Hornet is scheduled by the end 2012. The Super Hornet will give Australia an upgraded air combat capability, pending the introduction of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
The decision, soon after the 2012-13 federal budget confirmed the RAAF’s eight remaining C-130H Hercules would be retired early, has been expected for some time. Project AIR 8000, the BFA replacement, was active for more than 12 years, and the previous AIR 5190 ran for more than a decade before that. The C-27J will fill the requirement left vacant by the retirement of the last remaining DHC-4 Caribou tactical transports in December 2009.
“The C-27J was assessed by Defence as the aircraft which best met all the essential capability requirements and provides the best value for money. It was assessed as being able to fly further, faster, higher while carrying more cargo and requiring a smaller runway than the other aircraft under consideration, the Airbus Military C295,” a ministerial statement said.
Further justifications supporting the decision are that the C-27J can access nearly four times the number of airfields in Australia than the larger C-130J, and double the number of airfields in our wider region, as well as being able to operate into softer or unprepared fields.
The new aircraft will be based at RAAF Base Richmond, with a reformed 35SQN, disbanded in 1999 when Caribou operations were consolidated with 38SQN, under the command of 84WG.
The aircraft and associated spares, training and equipment will cost about $1.4 billion. The first RAAF C-27J is due to be delivered in 2015, and initial operational capability is scheduled for late 2016. “Initial logistic support, including training for aircrew and maintenance personnel will be provided through the FMS program, utilising the system that has been established in the US,” the ministers’ statement reads. “Defence will seek a separate agreement with the C-27J manufacturer, Alenia, in order to ensure that RAAF can operate, maintain and modify the aircraft throughout its planned life."
Does this mean that the RAAF will negotiate direct with Alenia for ongoing technical training and support rather than negotiate through the DMO?
Read what Defence industry experts say about the C-27J that the USAF has, or had.
The Williams Foundation, PO Box 5266, KINGSTON ACT 2604