The European-made NHIndustries NH90 is the star of the newest military capability of Australia, where the type dubbed MRH-90 Taipan, is a major part of the Amphibious Ready Element (ARE). The expeditionary unit is now prepping for an important series of exercises lasting several months and that will give the ARE operational readiness status by October this year.
This week crews and support personnel of the Royal Australian Army’s 16th Aviation Brigade were prepping their MRH-90s together with the 2nd Battalion and the Royal Australian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier (landing helicopter dock) HMAS Canberra. Location of the operations: the waters off the North Queensland coast.
The Amphibious Ready Element includes a force of 900 Australian Defence Force and other Government personnel, supported by four MRH-90 helicopters embarked on the Canberra. The Sea Series of exercises will will enable the amphibious force to achieve an interim operational status, meaning limited combat and full humanitarian disaster response capability.
The main goal of the current exercises is to have all units and personnel combined learn how to operate as one force, with focussing on putting ground forces on a beach with both the MRH-90s as well as landing craft and to control a larger area beachhead.
Australia has dropped plans to buy Lockheed Martin F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft for its Landing Helicopter Ships HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, various sources report on Thursday 9 July.
Plans to operate the F-35B from both ships first emerged last year and were even confirmed by Defense minister David Johnston. Those plans have now been quietly ditched, the apparent reason being the large number of modifications needed to both brand new ships.
Australia therefore will only operate the standard F-35A variant, of which 72 are on order and two are currently used for training in the US. The first Royal Australian Air Force pilots are learning to fly the F-35A at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is working on ways to become one of the most advanced air forces in the world by seeking maximum network integration with Australian army and navy forces. The plan is called ‘Jericho’ and is to be implemented in the next ten years. The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II will no doubt feature prominently in Plan Jericho.
The exciting and ambitious plan was unveiled in Melbourne by Air Force Chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown, who stated that Australia ‘cannot be complacent by thinking that simply having the next generation of aircraft technology will create an advanced air force.’ Instead, full potential will be reached by operating all assets in a fully networked environment.
Modern military aircraft are indeed capable of collecting vast amounts of data, and the value of this data increases exponentially when shared with other aircraft, ground or sea forces.
Pilots from Down Under are currently learning to fly the F-35A at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The sensors of the F-35 will be a key asset of Plan Jericho. Australia has 72 of the highly advanced 5th generation fighter aircraft on order, making it the largest customer after the US.
Currently, the RAAF flies a mix of older F/A-18A/B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets, with electronic warfare EA-18G Growlers on the way. Also important in the plan will be current Boeing E-7A Wedgetail AWACS aircraft, plus future Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes.