Defence has introduced into service new platforms and capabilities for the Air Force, along with a range of capability enhancements to existing platforms. These milestones mark the transformation of the RAAF from the platform-centric organisation it was in the late 1990s, towards the 5th generation, networked and interoperable full-spectrum force of the future in being.
Five new platforms have been brought into service in just two years, and there’s more to come in the next few years. The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton is to be acquired in the 2021 timeframe and up to five Gulfstream 550s will be modified to provide an airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare (ISREW) capability.
Furthermore, the RAAF has long harboured desire for an armed unmanned platform, for which the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator/MQ-9 Reaper is preferred. Formal approval for the project is expected to be announced by Defence Minister Marise Payne at Avalon. Further into the future, Air Force is closely watching the development of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV), such as Northrop Grumman’s X-47B.
Developing this so-called 5th Generation capability is more than just purchasing shiny new aircraft; it’s about harnessing all of the disparate capabilities and applying strategies and technologies to enhance legacy systems, allowing them to communicate across the battlespace; and it’s about changing the mindset of the ADF to maximise the potential that these measures bring to the air combat arena.