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Both types continued to be progressively upgraded
and in 2002 were designated AP-3C Orions. The
AP-3C is a significantly enhanced capability from
the first P-3B model; now fitted with a variety of
sensors, including digital multi-mode radar, electronic
support measures, electro-optics detectors (infra-red
and visual), magnetic anomaly detectors, friend or foe
identification systems and acoustic detectors.
The AP-3Cs form the basis of the current maritime
and land sur veillance fleet. To provide spares for the
operational fleet, some have been taken out of ser vice
and cannibalised to keep the remainder flying until
replaced at their final withdrawal date in 2021.
NEW MANNED AIRCRAFT ISR
According to Defence in their introduction to Project
AIR 7000 Phase 2B ‘The sheer size of the air
and sea space within Australia's primary operational
environment presents particular challenges in relation
to surveillance and armed maritime response across
such a vast area. To meet this challenge, in the 2009
Defence White Paper the Government decided to
acquire eight new maritime patrol aircraft to replace
the current AP-3C Orion fleet.
‘ These new aircraft will provide highly advanced
surface search radar and optical, infra-red and
electronic surveillance systems. With these systems,
along with a high transit speed and the ability to
conduct air-to-air refuelling, these aircraft will provide
a superior capability for rapid area search and
identification tasks. They will also provide a highly
advanced ASW capability, including an ability to
engage submarines using air-launched torpedoes.
After subsequent upgrades, they will be capable of
firing stand-off anti-ship missiles.’
The more recent 2016 Defence White Paper
states that Australia had committed to purchase eight
P-8A Poseidons, with seven additional aircraft to be
acquired in two tranches to bring the total to 15 aircraft
by the late 2020s.
The P-8A is built from the ground up as a military
aircraft. It is based on the proven commercial designs
of Boeing’s 737-800 fuselage, but is substantially
structurally modified to include a weapons bay, under
wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons, as
well as increased strengthening to allow for continued
low level (down to 200ft) operations and high angle
of bank turns.
The P-8A aircraft have an extensive communications
suite that includes radios and data links across the
VHF, UHF, HF and SATCOM spectrums. An internal
fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes, gives the P-8A the
ability to remain on station conducting low level anti-
submarine warfare missions at a distance of greater
than 2,000 kilometres from base. These aircraft have
a range of over 7,500 kilometres, and can be refuelled
in the air by Australia’s KC-30A air-to-air refuelling
aircraft, extending their range even further. In addition
to being able to undertake sophisticated surveillance
at great distances, the P-8A can undertake offensive
operations against submarines and ships, as well as
supporting search and rescue.
UNMANNED AERIAL ISR
To complement the surveillance capabilities of the
Poseidon, the Government will acquire seven high
altitude MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft from the early
2020s as part of the ISR capability stream.
The Triton is an unarmed, long-range, remotely
piloted aircraft that will operate across Australia’s land
and maritime environments, providing a persistent
patrol capability and undertaking other ISR tasks.
Recently there has been debate about the possibility
of arming the Tritons, giving them some surface vessel
Sometimes there is confusion about terminology
connected with unmanned aircraft. In Triton’s case
it is a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), flown by
qualified pilots from a ground control station
supported by a team of intelligence, operations and
administration officers, depending on the training
or mission requirements. An Unmanned Aircraft
System (UAS) is the entire system that supports the
aircraft which includes the aircraft itself, pilots, the
ground control station, communications systems,
logistics, avionics and engineering technicians,
and the information analysis team.
The 2016 Defence White Paper also stated that
short-range maritime tactical unmanned aircraft will
be acquired to improve the situational awareness of
ships on operations.
HOW DOES IT ALL WORK TOGETHER?
The RAAF's Surveillance and Response Group is
responsible for all of the Air Force’s air surveillance
assets; maritime warfare; aerospace, surveillance and
battle space management; and developing intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and electronic
warfare (EW) capabilities.
The four Wings, employing 2100 personnel,
cover air defence; airborne early warning and
control; air traffic control; and maritime operations.
Headquarters at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW is
responsible for personnel management; capability
management and development; technical capability;
and business management.
Headquartered at RAAF Base Edinburgh, No 92
Wing commands two flying squadrons and a training
unit, plus operational support and development efforts.
The Wing’s combat roles include anti-submarine and
anti-surface surveillance and warfare for which its
aircraft are equipped with torpedoes and Harpoon
anti-shipping missiles. The Wing is also responsible
for conducting long range ISR in support of Australia’s
national interests worldwide. They are also responsible
for search and survivor supply missions throughout
Australia’s region of responsibility.
CURRENT ASSET CHANGEOVER
The project is delivering twelve, and possibly fifteen
P-8A Poseidon aircraft and the associated through-
life support infrastructure as partial replacement of
the AP-3C Orion.
According to Defence’s project team ‘During 2016-
17, the first two RA AF P-8A Poseidon aircraft will be
delivered. The aircraft will be utilised to commence
the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation program,
which will progressively expand the operational roles
performed by the RAAF P-8A. The first two (of
three) Mobile Tactical Operations Centres will also
be delivered, and connected to the Defence Single
Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the first eight
P-8A's is scheduled for the period 2017 - 2020.
The through-life support infrastructure required
to enable initial P-8A operations will be delivered
during 2016-17, including support and test equipment,
spares and the necessary engineering and logistics
information systems. Training of aircrew, maintenance
crews and Mobile Tactical Operations Centres crews
will continue in the USA.
FUTURE SPACE-BASED SYSTEM
The 2016 Defence White Paper had this to say
about the role space plays in Australia’s sur veillance
systems. ‘Space-based systems for intelligence
collection, communications, navigation, targeting and
sur veillance play a vital role in all ADF and coalition
operations. Defence’s imagery and targeting capacity
will be enhanced through greater access to allied and
commercial space-based capabilities, strengthened
analytical capability and enhanced support systems.
‘Enhancements to our imagery capacity will
provide the basis to further develop our intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the
longer term, including through potential investment in
Australia will take delivery of the eighth Poseidon
in September 2018 as part of the replacement
program for the soon-to-retire AP-3C Orion maritime
The first aircraft is now in the skies and all eight will
be in use by 2021.
30/01/2017 6:42 PM
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