Minister for Defence – Speech – Opening of the Avalon Airshow

Thank you Chairman of Aerospace Australia Limited, Air Marshal Les Fisher AO, RAAF (Retired) for your warm welcome. 

I acknowledge the Victorian Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Minister for aManufacturing, Exports and Trade, Mr Richard Dalla-Riva. 

I also acknowledge the Victorian Minister for Technology and Minister responsible for the aviation industry, Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips. 

I also acknowledge the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of Air Shows Down Under, Mr Ian Honnery and the Mayor of Geelong, Mr Keith Fagg. 

I also acknowledge Shadow Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon David Johnston. 

I also acknowledge and thank the sponsors of the Air Show. 

The Australian International Airshow is the premier event on Australia’s international aviation calendar. 

I am pleased to be at Avalon for the Airshow again today and to have the opportunity to highlight some of the recent achievements of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), including the RAAF’s air lift capability. 

Air Lift 

Air lift is a critical element of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) capability to deploy, whether it is to Afghanistan or in support of humanitarian and disaster relief operations at home or abroad. 

In Afghanistan, C-17 and C-130J aircraft provide the transport backbone for the ADF’s operations. 

C-17 Globemaster aircraft from 36 Squadron based at RAAF Amberley provide routine strategic lift support to Australian forces in the MEAO, including Afghanistan. 

In 2012, the C-17A fleet flew 60 missions, about 330 hours of flight time, during which the C-17As moved 190 vehicles, 1,800 passengers and over 3,600 tonnes of cargo and conducted 20 aeromedical evacuations. 

C-130J aircraft provide in-theatre air movement for Australian and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces throughout the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO). 

In 2012, the C-130J fleet flew 500 missions, almost 3000 hours of flight time, carrying 28,000 passengers, moving over 3,800 tonnes of cargo and conducting 90 aeromedical evacuation tasks. 

The RAAF’s air lift capability again experienced a busy period over the 2012-13 holiday season, or these days the so called disaster season, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Australia and overseas. 

In Fiji and Samoa, in December 2012 the ADF delivered essential emergency supplies by C-17 and C-130s after Cyclone Evan destroyed houses and food crops.  

In Fiji, two RAAF C-17’s delivered approximately 40 tonnes of emergency supplies including tarpaulins, shelter kits, blankets, water containers and hygiene kits to support the shelter and sanitation needs for around 720 families. 

In Samoa, C-17 and C-130J aircraft delivered approximately 70 tonnes of emergency supplies including tarpaulins for 430 families, blankets for 600 people and water containers and purification tablets for 4000 families.  

A C-130J also deployed to the South-West Pacific for Operation Solomon Island Assist.  The aircraft conducted aerial reconnaissance to assist with damage assessments of the earthquake and tsunami affected Santa Cruz Island. 

In Australia, in response to the devastation following bushfires in Tasmania, two C-17s transported a pair of 20-tonne diesel power generators and transformers to Hobart in mid January  to restore power in bushfire-affected areas. 

C-17 aircraft were also instrumental in providing support to Bundaberg following the flooding there in January. 

They delivered critical supplies including aviation fuel after the Bundaberg airport’s reserves had been depleted as a result of the relentless rescue efforts of Army and civilian helicopters. 

C-130J’s also supported flood relief activities in Queensland. 

During the floods, a pair of C-130J’s assisted in relief efforts by performing the Aero Medical Evacuation of 91 patients from Bundaberg hospital to Brisbane. 

In addition to these activities, in January, a pair of C-130J assisted the rescue of a stranded French yachtsman in the Southern Ocean. 

Enhancing Australia’s Air Lift Capability 

These activities demonstrate that the Air Force’s air lift capability is a critical part of our national security capability and this is why the Government has focused on enhancing and increasing this capability. 

C-17 Globemaster 

The RAAF’s first four C-17A aircraft were delivered over the period 2006 to 2008. 

The first aircraft became operational in 2007, providing the ADF with a global airlift capability. 

 The C‑17 can lift very large and heavy cargoes over long distances, providing a significant contribution to Australia’s ability to both reach and respond to events.  

One C‑17 can carry up to four times a C-130 load in a single lift and cover twice the distance of a C-130 in three-quarters of the time.  The C-17 can carry three Black Hawk helicopters or a Chinook helicopter or five Bushmasters. 

At the last Avalon Airshow in 2011, I announced that the Government would purchase a fifth C-17A Globemaster for the RAAF. 

That aircraft was delivered in record time in August 2011. 

On its arrival, I announced that the Government would purchase a sixth C-17.  

This aircraft was delivered in November 2012. 

The acquisition of a fifth and sixth C-17 effectively doubles the number of C-17A aircraft available for operations at any one time from two to four. 

The additional aircraft gives Australia greatly increased options to support the wide range of contingencies that might require heavy-lift aircraft.  

The two additional C-17’s greatly increase Australia’s capacity to respond to natural disasters and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The additional aircraft significantly enhance Australia’s strategic heavy airlift capability, enabling the ADF to rapidly deploy operational vehicles, helicopters and heavy equipment.  

The C-17 fleet has proven invaluable in delivering humanitarian and emergency support as to response to national and international disasters. 

C-130J Hercules 

The RAAF has 12 Hercules C-130J transport aircraft, introduced in 1999. 

The C-130J provides medium to long range transport with an excellent short dirt runway capability, allowing it to perform tactical or strategic transport duties, search and survivor assistance, disaster relief operations and medical evacuations. 

In mid-February this year the RAAF marked ten years of continuous deployment of C-130J Hercules to the MEAO, where they have achieved a mission success rate in excess of 98 per cent. 

C-27J Alena Spartan Battlefield Airlift 

Shortly after the May 2012 Budget, I announced that the Government would purchase 10 Alenia C-27J Spartan Battlefield Airlift aircraft at a cost of $1.4 billion. 

The first aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2015 with the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) scheduled for the end of 2016. 

The C-27J will replace the Caribou, which was retired from service in 2009 after a career spanning more than four decades.  

The C-27 complements the capabilities of the C-130 and C-17 aircraft and uses common infrastructure and aircraft systems such as engines, avionics and the cargo handling systems. 

The acquisition of the C-27 will significantly improve the Air Force’s ability to move troops, equipment and supplies.  

They will be able to operate from rudimentary airstrips in Australia and overseas and will be able to support humanitarian missions in remote locations. 

The C-27J has the capacity to carry significant load and still access small, soft, narrow runways that are too short for the C-130J or runways which are unable to sustain repeated use of larger aircraft. 

The C-27 can access over 1900 airfields in Australia, compared to around 500 for the C-130. 

In our region, the C-27 will be able to access over 400 airfields compared to around 200 for the C‑130 Hercules aircraft.  

These aircraft provide battlefield airlift but are also capable of conducting airlift in our region.  

The flexibility of the C-27J allows it to undertake a wide range of missions from delivering ammunition to front line troops to undertaking aero-medical evacuation of causalities. 

The C-27J will provide Australia with an agile, deployable capability enabling access to more airfields within Australia and our region, and supplement the ongoing work of the C-130Js and C-17As. 

KC – 30A Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTT) 

Today, I am pleased to announce that the KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft has reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC). 

The MRTT is designed to perform airborne refuelling for air combat aircraft to enhance endurance and range. 

The MRTT will also provide a further increase in Australia’s overall air lift capability. 

Each aircraft has a further lift capacity for 270 passengers and has an under-floor freight capacity of 36,000 kg, over 25 airline containers. 

In December last year I announced Defence’s acceptance of the fifth and final MRTT aircraft. 

The aircraft was delivered to Defence at the Airbus Military MRTT facility at Madrid, Spain. 

The aircraft arrived at RAAF Base Amberley in early December last year. 

In the same month, Air Force completed the first Australian pilot and Air Refuelling Operator courses at the MRTT training centre at RAAF Base Amberley. 

Earlier this year, two MRTT aircraft accompanied seven F/A-18 A/B ‘Classic’ Hornets to Exercise COPE NORTH in Guam. 

The exercise successfully demonstrated the aircraft’s refuelling capability and capacity. 

Refuelling for the F/A-18 ‘Classic’ Hornets and air logistic support were the focus of achieving IOC. 

Refuelling clearance tests for the F/A-18F Super Hornets are now underway, and on track to be completed this year. 

Further modification and testing is underway to enable the MRTT to achieve final operational capability, involving the ability to refuel the E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, C-17’s, and other MRTT’s.  

The capability to refuel both C-17s and other MRTT’s will further enhance the global reach of Australia’s heavy air lift capability. 


Since 2007, Australia’s airlift capability has been very substantially increased and enhanced. This enhancement will continue as the MRTT and C-27 aircraft are introduced over the course of the next few years. 

In 2006, Air Force’s transport and airlift fleet comprised 47 aircraft capable of carrying 3,775 passengers and over 650 tonnes of cargo in total. 

When the C-27s commence operations in 2016, Air Force’s transport and airlift fleet will comprise 46 aircraft capable of carrying over 4,300 passengers and 950 tonnes of cargo in total. 

That is around an overall 15 per cent increase in passenger capacity and a 30 per cent increase in cargo. 

Additionally, the average age of the transport and airlift fleet will have been reduced from nearly 25 years to less than 10 years. 

This substantially enhances the ADF’s capability to deploy, whether on operations overseas or in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations at home and abroad. 

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