Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR February 2011 Contents 76 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
Air Marshal Mark Binskin,
Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force
speaks with APDR Editor, Kym Bergmann Air Marshal Binskin with Wedgetail.
Q: WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT THE RECENT FLOODS ON
A: The response has involved a lot of effort on the part of Defence. At least
the floods started relatively slowly, with problems first emerging in central
and northern Queensland and the State Government already had a good
grip on the problem. It was after the Toowoomba floods and the tragedy of
the Lockyear valley that the tempo for Defence went up rapidly.
Q: WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE OF THE RAAF?
A: We have had a number of people on the ground supporting the cleanup
immediately after the water subsided. The majority of them have been in
the Ipswich area – because we are very much part of the local community
because of the proximity of the Amberley air base. We had about 70 of our
own Air Force families affected by the floods, with damage ranging from
total inundation of houses - where people lost everything – down to those
who thankfully escaped with relatively minor damage. Amberley itself was
affected on the day of the floods when for a short time about a quarter of
the runway was under water – but everyone up there did a great job and
operations did not miss a beat.
We have had number of King Airs conducting support operations around
the state, moving people and lighter loads. There were also three C-130s
used to transport equipment, people and food to Mackay in particular and
from there they moved by truck into Rockhampton. The C-17 Globemasters
flew a number of missions to Townsville delivering basic essentials to the
flood victims, as well as transporting disaster relief personnel – such as
additional police – from interstate.
Q: DID THIS HAVE AN IMPACT ON YOUR SCHEDULED
A: No, not at all. We were able to swing into the effort very quickly and
throughout the period still maintained all of our regular resupply flights
to the Middle East Area of Operations. There were no problems at all with
Q: LOOKING BACK ON 2010, WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS?
A: Last year was a very busy and very important year for the RAAF. There
were several major achievements and, in particular order, I’ll start with the
Heron UAV detachment in Afghanistan. Based in Kandahar, the Heron is
now operating to its full potential and is making an important contribution
to coalition operations.
Another major development was the introduction of the Super Hornets,
which are now operational – quite an achievement in a short period of
time for a hi-tech state-of-the-art fighter. We needed to have a squadron
of Super Hornets reach initial operational capability (IOC) so that we
could withdraw the F-111s as planned, and we met that goal on the 8th of
While there is still more work to be done to reach full operational
capability (FOC) scheduled for late 2012, the fact is that the Super Hornets
are deployable today.
Then of course there are the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and
Control aircraft. The aircraft have been introduced into service and we
are expecting to achieve IOC by the end of this year. I flew on a Wedgetail
recently and I have to say it is an extremely impressive aeroplane. The
co-ordination of the crew and the systems was excellent and we are coming
along in leaps and bounds from interim acceptance.
We also bought Vigilaire into service at North ROC and by the middle of
this year should be up and running at East ROC.
Q: REGARDING JSF, DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT
A: The changes announced by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates are
actually positive for Australia. Making a decision to shift the Marine
Corps Short Takeoff, Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant two years down the
timeline means that all the focus will now be on the A model, which is the
one we are buying. So I’m confident about meeting delivery timetables
and especially about the level of capability they will deliver when in
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