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40 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter FEB 2017
This 17.7 million square kilometre area is included
in Australia’s Search and Rescue Region (SRR)
which covers an area of nearly 53 million square
kilometres, one tenth of the world’s surface. Australia’s
SRR borders those of 10 other countries, indicating
the enormous size of the ISR task.
Apart from threats to national security posed by
attempts to breach maritime borders by people
smugglers seeking to bring people ashore by sea,
there are huge problems in maintaining quarantine
restrictions, containing drug smuggling and other
criminal activities. Add to this countering marine
pollution and search and rescue missions, it all creates
an extra burden on the civilian Australian Border Force,
supported by the Australian Defence Forces.
In addition to land patrols along the northern and
north-western coastal borders, and reporting by
commercial pilots flying on regular routes across the
continent, Australia uses a mix of air, sea and space
platforms to provide broad maritime domain awareness.
Those platforms exploit the electromagnetic spectrum
through an array of technical sur veillance and
intelligence collection capabilities. As well as civilian
border security requirements, the capabilities have
been developed for defence purposes and are now
deployed with the aim of locating and classifying
relatively large surface and subsurface naval vessels,
as well as military aircraft.
AUSTRALIA’S SURVEILLANCE AREA
Australia’s land and contiguous sea areas amount
to over 50 million square kilometres. Effective
sur veillance is required, particularly over the north-
west maritime approaches where most border security
incidents occur. Each week in 2014 an average of 661
ships, 22,931 ship crew, 21,000 sea passengers, 25
recreational craft and 55,000 sea cargo consignments
arrived in Australia, mainly via these key approaches.
Maritime traffic in the Southern Ocean is much
less, but there the main compliance activity relates
to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. With
the rough waters regularly encountered in the south,
aerial or space sur veillance offers a better option,
although enforcement at sea is the only way to
apprehend the violators.
The real challenge for sur veillance of this huge
area is that complete and continuous coverage is
impossible. This means that efforts are prioritised
according to experienced events or expected risk and
also within budgetary constraints, meaning the most
efficient methods have to be employed.
CURRENT SURVEILLANCE ASSETS
As can be readily imagined, there is extensive intelligence
sharing between allies in the region with the caveat that
not all means and techniques of collecting electronic
intelligence are revealed between countries.
The JORN HF radar network is operated by the
RAAF and provides coverage in an arc from the
north-west through to the north-east of Australia from
sites in Queensland and Western Australia. Data
from the JORN sites is fed to the JORN Coordination
Centre at RAAF Base Edinburgh from where it
is passed on to other agencies and military units.
Officially the system allows the ADF to observe
air and sea activity north of Australia to distances
up to 4,000km although in 1997 the prototype
detected Chinese missile launches over 5,500km
away. Although weather and ionosphere affected, it
is extremely sensitive and a program of continuous
development has greatly improved its capabilities.
Satellite coverage is also affected by weather and
by the number of interpretive staff available to scan the
The RAAF selected the Lockheed Martin P-3B
Orion in 1964 and started flying them in Australia in
1968. A progressive series of upgrades started in
1975 offered a great leap for ward in electronics fitout
and processing capability. Those P-3Bs not planned to
be upgraded were sold off to overseas air forces. Ten
P-3C models ordered new from the US and were first
introduced in 1978, joining the upgraded P-3B aircraft.
GEOFF SLOCOMBE // VICTORIA
ISR TO BE BOOSTED BY FIRST RAAF
With one of the largest surveillance areas in the world, covering a land mass of 7.7 million square kilometres and a maritime
jurisdiction zone of over 14 million square kilometres including 10 million in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Australia is boosting
its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities by purchasing Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft and Northrop
Grumman MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft. These capable assets will be in addition to naval patrols, continuous satellite
surveillance and the Jindalee Over the Horizon HF radar network.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s first P-8A Poseidon flies down the St Vincent Gulf coastline near Adelaide in South Australia.
Credit: CoA / Craig Barrett
30/01/2017 6:42 PM
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