Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Address to Defence and Aerospace Industry Dinner
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
I thank the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin for his invitation to address the Chief of Air Force Symposium’s Defence and Aerospace Industry Dinner.
This Symposium is an important element of the relationship between the Royal Australian Air Force and Australia’s Aviation Industry.
I acknowledge Deputy Under Secretary of the United States Air Force, Ms Heidi Grant, my Ministerial colleague Jason Clare, the Minister for Defence Materiel, Mr Stuart Robert, Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel, ADF personnel, Defence and Defence Materiel officials, ladies and gentlemen.
I thank Aerospace Australia Limited the sponsor for tonight’s dinner and the other sponsor’s for the Air Show throughout the week.
Aerospace Australia Limited is a leading supporter of the Australian aviation industry. This week we see another fine air show, together with its associated events which see industry and Air Force working closely together.
Tonight we acknowledge the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force.
This is a significant milestone.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was established on 31 March 1921 and is the second oldest Air Force in the World.
In late 1944, the RAAF peaked at over 180,000 personnel and 6,000 aircraft in over 60 squadrons.
In 1945, Australia had the fourth-largest air force in the world after the USA, USSR and UK.
This personally touched many Australian families. My father, then in his teens, joined the RAAF in 1943 and was about to embark overseas with his mates at war’s end.
He was one of 215,000 men and women who served in the RAAF between 1939 and 1945.
Over 10,000 RAAF personnel lost their lives.
Over 50 per cent of these deaths occurred in the air war against Germany over Europe.
Air Force personnel have since served with distinction in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Air Force personnel have also served with distinction in humanitarian and disaster relief missions throughout the world, including Bougainville, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Somalia and the Sudan.
And already in 2011, in what we always knew would be a busy year for Defence, the Air Force has been conducting a wide and demanding range of operations at home and abroad.
In the face of the extraordinary natural disasters our country has experienced this year, the response by the Air Force and its personnel has been magnificent.
In response to the east coast floods in Queensland and Victoria, ADF helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have flown more than 1,000 flying hours, transported nearly 700 tonnes of stores and carried nearly 1,500 passengers both military and civilian.
In the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi in Queensland’s north, Defence aircraft, from C-17s to King Air, have flown nearly 250 hours and airlifted more than 300 tonnes of cargo, including more than 200 tonnes of emergency food and water.
And most recently, Air Force has been at the forefront of Australian assistance to New Zealand following the terrible earthquake in Christchurch.
Air Commodore Gary Martin (Commander Air Lift Group) is commanding Joint Task Force 641 to provide air lift of civilian urban search and rescue personnel and equipment to Christchurch, New Zealand.
So far, C-17 and C-130 aircraft have delivered much needed equipment, stores and emergency services personnel to New Zealand and have returned over 100 Australian civilians to Australia.
Around 150 urban search and rescue personnel and around 50 tonnes of cargo have been delivered – as well as search and rescue dogs.
There are also dedicated Air Force personnel serving in operations around the globe, protecting Australia's national interests.
In the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO), C-17s and C-130s have been the backbone of supporting our deployed forces. Three C-130J aircraft, based in the United Arab Emirates, provide in-theatre air movement for Australian and International Security Assistance Force forces throughout the MEAO, including Afghanistan.
C-17 aircraft from the RAAF’s Amberley based 36 Squadron provide routine strategic lift support to Australian forces in the MEAO, including Afghanistan.
Air Force assets and personnel also provide a substantial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability in the Middle East. Two AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft provide maritime surveillance of the Arabian Sea and overland surveillance of Afghanistan.
Heron remotely piloted aircraft provide medium altitude reconnaissance, surveillance and mission support to our ground forces in Afghanistan.
Australia’s Air Force operating these capabilities today is small compared to its size at the end of the Second World War, with nearly 15,000 men and women, supported by 3,500 Air Force Reservists at eleven major bases and other establishments across Australia.
Today, four key roles Air Force conducts are control of the air, strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and air lift capability.
Control of the air is a fundamental basis for joint operations. Strike is an essential element of Australia’s defence capability.
Australia’s capability in control of the air and strike is being bolstered with the acquisition of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets to take over from the F-111.
Delivery of these new aircraft is well advanced with initial operating capability achieved in December 2010. The Super Hornets will complement the RAAF’s existing fleet of 71 F/A-18A/B Hornets.
Flight testing of the F-35, the Joint Strike Fighter, Australia’s next generation air combat capability is well under way in the US. The RAAF will take delivery of its first aircraft in 2014.
The F-35’s combination of low observability, advanced weaponry and sophisticated intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance sensors, will allow Australia to maintain its capability edge and control its sea and air approaches.
The F-35 is a good example of the significant value in working together with other nations to develop capability solutions, and the benefits of common platforms and systems.
Jointly operating capabilities reduce operating costs and increase the interoperability of our forces.
This is particularly important during a period when countries around the globe, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are undertaking significant reform programs to achieve better value for money and more efficiency in defence acquisitions.
Air Force’s air lift capability is fundamental to Australia’s ability to respond.
Air lift is critical in war time but as well is fundamental to an ability to respond quickly to natural disasters.
The importance of airlift was highlighted during my recent visit to New Zealand.
On 10 February, New Zealand Defence Minister Mapp and I announced in Wellington the successful reinvigoration of the Australia-New Zealand Airlift Agreement.
This initiative was developed at the Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Sydney in September 2009 to complement the Pacific-focused Ready Response Force, initiated at the same time.
The Ready Response Force involves the sharing of key capabilities, such as the amphibious lift ship HMNZS Canterbury.
It was also agreed in Wellington that Australia and New Zealand would increase cooperation, coordination and sharing in airlift.
Tonight I announce that Australia will consider the acquisition of an additional C-17A Globemaster III aircraft through the United States Foreign Military Sales program.
I will discuss this with Deputy Under Secretary Grant during her visit here.
The Air Force’s current four C?17 aircraft were delivered over the period 2006 to 2008 and have provided an operational capability since 2007. They have delivered excellent service and have provided Defence’s first true global-airlift capability.
The recent events in Queensland and Christchurch have underlined the C?17s as an essential part of Australia’s capacity to respond to natural and regional disasters.
While disaster relief has been a recent public focus for C-17 operations, they continue to support Australian and ISAF forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East, meeting their primary purpose in providing military long-range heavy airlift.
The C?17A aircraft can lift outsize and heavy cargoes over long distances providing a significant contribution to Australia’s ability to reach and respond to events. One C?17A can carry up to four C-130 Hercules loads in a single lift and cover twice the distance in three-quarters of the time of a C?130 Hercules.
Currently, Air Force has 4 C-17A and 24 C-130 aircraft.
An acquisition of an additional C-17 would almost certainly obviate any need for the acquisition of two additional C-130 aircraft, currently planned for after 2013-14.
Given the significant work that is being undertaken by our current fleet of C-17 aircraft in support of operations, including recent disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and the unpredictable nature of some of these events, we are considering the acquisition of an additional C-17 aircraft now to provide Australia with a wider range of options to support such operations.
We are seeking cost and availability information to enable consideration to be given to the acquisition of another C-17 aircraft.
Tonight we congratulate the RAAF on achieving 90 years of distinguished service to the nation.
The RAAF personnel in attendance here tonight and throughout the course of the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition at Avalaon continue that distinguished service.
The Airshow is a fitting celebration of the 90th anniversary of the RAAF.
The Avalon Airshow has a long standing reputation as one of the largest and most comprehensive events of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
I hope that you enjoy your dinner tonight, and that you enjoy the Airshow over the course of the week.
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