Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] News, Discussions and Updates

Stampede

Well-Known Member
If Talisman Sabre is anything to go by than bare base operations are clearly very important.

Actually Australia’s previous wartime experience in this region is a pretty strong indicator of just how important forward bases are.

The Rhinos, Growlers and remaining classic hornets are all well suited to these sorts of operations. The F-35A … not so much.

If the final tranche but of 28 more F-35 goes ahead it could be worth looking at the C model. Particularly if it gives us in opportunity to work beside the US marines.

On one side of the ledger you do have the performance and cost advantages of the F-35A. On the other side you have an aircraft that can better operate out of rough airfields and give you that little bit of extra range. In fact it could give you a lot of extra range if you can deploy it further forward.

it could be worth considering even if you have to sacrifice a few airframes or find some more money.
My fantasy fleet would have been 3 x Squadrons of F35C and one of F35B.

But then that old reality of financing comes in and reality whacks you in the back of the head.

Oh well!

If their was one area I'd pursue it would be drop tanks for the existing F35A.
I get the stealth thing, but there would still be many scenario's they could be used.


I understand Israel are seriously looking at this and for a country like OZ with great land and sea challenges, extra legs are a must.
Our existing tankers will be hard pressed to cater for all our needs, so adding KM's to the in service F35's make them increasingly independent of in flight refueling.
Tanks for the F 35 in " Beast Mode " and when ferrying from A to B come to mind.

As to funding and development!!!

Not sure how that one plays out.

Regards S
 

BigM60

Member
Overnight I did think about the problems with the A as the undercart because I thought that it may have to be strengthened. The wing area as well did come into consideration.

The short fields isn't a problem because if you actually look at the USMC approach they use metal mesh to reinforce the surface. Again that comes back to WW2 experience. In this case either the RAAF stands up its own airfield engineering unit or it has an army engineering team trained up and ready to go. Your sortie rate shouldn't be unduly impacted by the wire trapping system. Yes recoveries will take longer but it shouldn't create a major problem.
Just a small correction. The RAAF does have an airfield engineering unit - 65 Squadron. It is equipped with heavy plant and also handles the EOD task. The squadron has detachments at various bases and its main role is airbase recovery.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
There are quite a few short airfields in the region that are paved, but not normally able to take fighters, 737's or larger aircraft.

PNG air for example operates aircraft in the 25 ton range, but have short take off and landing of around 1000m - 2000m. (eg Hoskins in new britain 1500m, Raubul is 1700m and Mount Hartgan has a 2nd runway at 1000m, Gurney is 1700m and has flights to cairns). While not terribly likely bases for fighters normally, emergency landings from others in the region or if an airfield is taken out of commission is entirely possible.

PNG has limited useful fields. Away from the coast, getting fuel there could be a major challenge, particularly during wet seasons. Other fields, while they may claim to be international airports, international airport has a different meaning in PNG. Some are not much more than muddy clearings, and barely suitable for helo ops.

Also being at the equator, many of these locations can be susceptible to storms, or in the case of Rabul, volcanic eruptions, which destroyed the previous airport. Most are quite small and limited in expansion possibilities, usually by terrain (island or mountains etc). If a large conflict occurred north of Australia, we would most likely need to utilize the entire network of airports and airfields, as most would not be able to fly many ops continuously and would have limited facilities.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
There are quite a few short airfields in the region that are paved, but not normally able to take fighters, 737's or larger aircraft.

PNG air for example operates aircraft in the 25 ton range, but have short take off and landing of around 1000m - 2000m. (eg Hoskins in new britain 1500m, Raubul is 1700m and Mount Hartgan has a 2nd runway at 1000m, Gurney is 1700m and has flights to cairns). While not terribly likely bases for fighters normally, emergency landings from others in the region or if an airfield is taken out of commission is entirely possible.

PNG has limited useful fields. Away from the coast, getting fuel there could be a major challenge, particularly during wet seasons. Other fields, while they may claim to be international airports, international airport has a different meaning in PNG. Some are not much more than muddy clearings, and barely suitable for helo ops.

Also being at the equator, many of these locations can be susceptible to storms, or in the case of Rabul, volcanic eruptions, which destroyed the previous airport. Most are quite small and limited in expansion possibilities, usually by terrain (island or mountains etc). If a large conflict occurred north of Australia, we would most likely need to utilize the entire network of airports and airfields, as most would not be able to fly many ops continuously and would have limited facilities.
But that's the point of the USMC idea. You are using temporary facilities and if necessary extend existing or build your own strips. That's what they did in WW2 and that's the point of the USMC 2 star's comment about looking for new ideas by looking at the past. You are deliberately avoiding existing airports and airbases because they are most likely damaged or destroyed anyway. Your squadrons are expeditionary and able to move quickly. You are not reliant upon preexisting facilities and infrastructure. An engineering squadron plus a security squadron will go in to prepare a strip before the aircraft fly in. Then what is needed is flown in and supported by air until the next move, which maybe be a day or a week later depending upon the circumstances. You aren't building whole bases with permanent facilities and 5 star hotels.
 

Takao

The Bunker Group
But that's the point of the USMC idea. You are using temporary facilities and if necessary extend existing or build your own strips. That's what they did in WW2 and that's the point of the USMC 2 star's comment about looking for new ideas by looking at the past. You are deliberately avoiding existing airports and airbases because they are most likely damaged or destroyed anyway. Your squadrons are expeditionary and able to move quickly. You are not reliant upon preexisting facilities and infrastructure. An engineering squadron plus a security squadron will go in to prepare a strip before the aircraft fly in. Then what is needed is flown in and supported by air until the next move, which maybe be a day or a week later depending upon the circumstances. You aren't building whole bases with permanent facilities and 5 star hotels.
The problem with this in the modern world is the materiel needed to make these runways. We can build runways that are C-17 capable in 72 h, but for F-35 you need concrete / asphalt. Not all of that can be won locally, so you in turn need to bring it in.

So now in addition to lifting a CER Sqn (or 65 Sqn equivalent), you now have to lift a whole bunch of raw materiel. That's almost an LHD worth of 'stuff'.

Beyond that, 72 hr fits within every targeting cycle I can think of. Any threat that is capable of over-the-horizon strike will know what you are doing before you have finished. This will be increased for fast jets. Their choice is then hit the airfield engineers (a valuable target) or the fast jets as they come in.

That's before the amount of 'stuff' a fast jet Sqn needs to operate is brought into mind. Deploying even a flight is harder than almost anything else in the ADF inventory....

I'm not convinced expeditionary air bases work in the modern world. Western aircraft (stand fast Harrier) are just too fragile and demanding. Instead, I'd rather see airbases toughened up. While no HAS is impenetrable, you can harden them enough to over-complicate the REDFOR targeting cycle.
 

Stormyaus

New Member
There are quite a few short airfields in the region that are paved, but not normally able to take fighters, 737's or larger aircraft.

PNG air for example operates aircraft in the 25 ton range, but have short take off and landing of around 1000m - 2000m. (eg Hoskins in new britain 1500m, Raubul is 1700m and Mount Hartgan has a 2nd runway at 1000m, Gurney is 1700m and has flights to cairns). While not terribly likely bases for fighters normally, emergency landings from others in the region or if an airfield is taken out of commission is entirely possible.

PNG has limited useful fields. Away from the coast, getting fuel there could be a major challenge, particularly during wet seasons. Other fields, while they may claim to be international airports, international airport has a different meaning in PNG. Some are not much more than muddy clearings, and barely suitable for helo ops.

Also being at the equator, many of these locations can be susceptible to storms, or in the case of Rabul, volcanic eruptions, which destroyed the previous airport. Most are quite small and limited in expansion possibilities, usually by terrain (island or mountains etc). If a large conflict occurred north of Australia, we would most likely need to utilize the entire network of airports and airfields, as most would not be able to fly many ops continuously and would have limited facilities.
Komo airfield in Hela province is 3200m long and built by ExxonMobil to take an AN-124... your biggest problem would be getting fuel up there. The highlands highway is not a sustainable option for long-term use.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
The problem with this in the modern world is the materiel needed to make these runways. We can build runways that are C-17 capable in 72 h, but for F-35 you need concrete / asphalt. Not all of that can be won locally, so you in turn need to bring it in.

So now in addition to lifting a CER Sqn (or 65 Sqn equivalent), you now have to lift a whole bunch of raw materiel. That's almost an LHD worth of 'stuff'.

Beyond that, 72 hr fits within every targeting cycle I can think of. Any threat that is capable of over-the-horizon strike will know what you are doing before you have finished. This will be increased for fast jets. Their choice is then hit the airfield engineers (a valuable target) or the fast jets as they come in.

That's before the amount of 'stuff' a fast jet Sqn needs to operate is brought into mind. Deploying even a flight is harder than almost anything else in the ADF inventory....

I'm not convinced expeditionary air bases work in the modern world. Western aircraft (stand fast Harrier) are just too fragile and demanding. Instead, I'd rather see airbases toughened up. While no HAS is impenetrable, you can harden them enough to over-complicate the REDFOR targeting cycle.
I think this applies to Darwin/Tindal in particular. No matter how much "dispersion" we muster, they're going to be in demand if the balloon goes up. Given that there are essentially two weapons in the PRC arsenal that can plausibly reach them (DF26 and CJ10) I suspect a modicum of hardening and base defence would be useful. At the very least, I can't see them being a viable target for massive gravity dropped bunker busters any time soon...
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
The problem with this in the modern world is the materiel needed to make these runways. We can build runways that are C-17 capable in 72 h, but for F-35 you need concrete / asphalt. Not all of that can be won locally, so you in turn need to bring it in.
Then how come the USMC are using metal mesh? That's what the article said. IIRC it's aluminium based and can be used over preexisting surfaces.

During WW2 in the Pacific the US shipped in equipment to make asphalt and concrete, so going by that example you could ship in equipment by amphibs prior. The idea is to be flexible and look for a streamlined way or lean expeditionary way of operating in an island hopping situation. The Sqns will have packups that they use for deployment.

One thing that the RNZAF did during the Pacific campaign was to form servicing units (SU) and the aircraft belonged to them. The ground crew did a year on a SU before returning to NZ for a posting, then posted back to another SU. The aircrew did 3 months of combat service, then returned to NZ for a home posting, before another 3 month tour of combat service. The Sqn aircrew would rotate back and a new Sqn (aircrew only) rotate in. So all that was changing was the personnel. The SU was the complete package because it included everything required to support the flying Sqns. That was engineering, logistics, administration, catering, medical etc. So that is one option.
 

south

Active Member
Then how come the USMC are using metal mesh? That's what the article said. IIRC it's aluminium based and can be used over preexisting surfaces.

During WW2 in the Pacific the US shipped in equipment to make asphalt and concrete, so going by that example you could ship in equipment by amphibs prior. The idea is to be flexible and look for a streamlined way or lean expeditionary way of operating in an island hopping situation. The Sqns will have packups that they use for deployment.
The short fields isn't a problem because if you actually look at the USMC approach they use metal mesh to reinforce the surface. Again that comes back to WW2 experience. In this case either the RAAF stands up its own airfield engineering unit or it has an army engineering team trained up and ready to go. Your sortie rate shouldn't be unduly impacted by the wire trapping system. Yes recoveries will take longer but it shouldn't create a major problem.
Takao addressed the metal matting - slows the process down too much and leave an obvious (pun intended) footprint. The airfield in the article (29 Palms) is essentially permanent, despite the use of matting surface. Which is fine for a Conops demo.

The idea being explored by the USMC is actually to use a prior established airstrip, with largely suitable facilities (taxiways/parking apron), doing minimal enhancement, such that you could be on the ground, refueled, bombed up, then gone again, in a shorter timeframe than the opfor targeting cycle.

re WWII, that was before the days of Satellites, and even pesky Open source Intel like Twitter or Facebook. As an aside, many of the runways were built with local materials like crushed coral.

Regarding landing rate on cable ops for non-carrier aircraft - if it takes 3-4 minutes between landings (reasonable, bordering on fast) then the last jet in an eight ship is taking at least 30 minutes longer. It adds up and will quickly become a factor.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
PNG is not just at risk of long range ballistic missiles (imo expensive and unlikely), it is more likely to be at risk of long range bombers and ship launched missiles and munitions.

I don't see F-35's basing/flying out of PNG, its far more likely all that high end gear will be in butterworth or Guam or Japan or anywhere else. However, it is still open to attack and harassments, by bomber and ship. Would in desperate times Australia consider operating Wedgetail/P8's from PNG airfields, quite probable. There is a huge amount of important sea space around there that is key to the security of Australia. Perhaps 4th gen, perhaps armed trainer aircraft. They won't be dueling fighters, its about deterring 1960's era bombers, long range aircraft and ships. Possibly in grey zone type situations.

You are deliberately avoiding existing airports and airbases because they are most likely damaged or destroyed anyway. Your squadrons are expeditionary and able to move quickly.
Certainly I can see that being a bigger problem much closer to China. Day one of a conflict, all the traditional airfields are likely to be targeted, with missiles and then with air raids. I see it less of a problem around PNG, that you would have to establish greensite airfields right into virgin tropical forests. I doubt any attacks on China directly would be coming from PNG, and China is going to be prioritizing mainland attack fields. PNG isn't the same country as it was in the 1930's and 1940's, and the fleet isn't just off the coast of PNG.

More likely is use of the many secondary airfields. There are dozens of 1-2km paved runways, in PNG. But they are extremely unlikely to be targeted at least early in the conflict, as they are for many reasons not ideal military airfields.

As an aside, many of the runways were built with local materials like crushed coral.
Some still are, or more likely some are paved well maintained for a short distance that is actually used, and the longer distance is in various states of disrepair. Last worked on either in the mid 1960's when Australia went around paranoid and fixing things, or in their original post WWII state.

I hear Kikori airport was refitted with real WWII marston matting after its sealed runway started to fall apart. Apparently the Marston matting has a longer life, lower maintenance in this environment than bitumen..

Some have had significant investment, Momote, Lae, Gurney, Mt Hargan, etc either have completed or are undergoing significant upgrades.

Looking at PNG I wonder if G550 AEW aircraft might be more suitable for operations out of PNG.

IN beefing up remote airfields Australia's needs are likely to be far less than the US needs in and around guam, japan, korea etc.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
What I am trying to do is to get people to think more about how the RAAF will have to operate differently in the wartime scenario. It's not going to be like peacetime at all and what is done in peacetime even on exercises may not be possible in wartime. That was one of the lessons of WW2 that allied nations learned the hard way. Whilst it looked really good on paper, when it became reality it turned to shit big time. There are plenty of well known examples.

So the RAAF will have to forget about 5 star hotels and getting up at lunchtime. :D

Some questions to think about.
  • What can it do to be able to operate in an expeditionary environment and survive, not just in the air but on the ground as well?
  • Where will the RAAF be required to operate?
    • It's operational area.
      • Outside of Australia?
      • Pacific east of PNG?
      • Solomon Islands?
      • Indonesia - Philippines surrounding environs?
  • Where will it need to operate from?
    • PNG / Solomons etc?
      • Island strips?
      • Local airports?
  • How will it protect, support and sustain these bareboned strips?
  • What are the minimum requirements for these strips?
  • What and where will be the threats to these strips?
  • How can the RAAF mitigate these threats?
  • What are the minimum requirements to support an operational combat Sqn in the field?
    • Can this be streamlined?
    • Can it be packed in such a way that it is easy and quick to pack up, transport, and break down?
So plenty to think about.

And just a comment about Island strips and heavy aircraft. My dad served on Green (Nissan) Island in the New Britain area with the RNZAF during 1944 & 1945. Both the RNZAF and USMC operated out of there with both flying F-4U Corsairs. The USAAF used to fly in regular Liberator cargo flights and dad was always detailed to unload the Liberator when it arrived. He used to say that the NZ beer supply came in that way sometimes and some bottles mysteriously were known to find their way into the undergrowth by where the Liberator was parked. His cobber told me at his funeral that it was more than some.
 
What I am trying to do is to get people to think more about how the RAAF will have to operate differently in the wartime scenario. It's not going to be like peacetime at all and what is done in peacetime even on exercises may not be possible in wartime. That was one of the lessons of WW2 that allied nations learned the hard way. Whilst it looked really good on paper, when it became reality it turned to shit big time. There are plenty of well known examples.

So the RAAF will have to forget about 5 star hotels and getting up at lunchtime. :D

Some questions to think about.
  • What can it do to be able to operate in an expeditionary environment and survive, not just in the air but on the ground as well?
  • Where will the RAAF be required to operate?
    • It's operational area.
      • Outside of Australia?
      • Pacific east of PNG?
      • Solomon Islands?
      • Indonesia - Philippines surrounding environs?
  • Where will it need to operate from?
    • PNG / Solomons etc?
      • Island strips?
      • Local airports?
  • How will it protect, support and sustain these bareboned strips?
  • What are the minimum requirements for these strips?
  • What and where will be the threats to these strips?
  • How can the RAAF mitigate these threats?
  • What are the minimum requirements to support an operational combat Sqn in the field?
    • Can this be streamlined?
    • Can it be packed in such a way that it is easy and quick to pack up, transport, and break down?
So plenty to think about.

And just a comment about Island strips and heavy aircraft. My dad served on Green (Nissan) Island in the New Britain area with the RNZAF during 1944 & 1945. Both the RNZAF and USMC operated out of there with both flying F-4U Corsairs. The USAAF used to fly in regular Liberator cargo flights and dad was always detailed to unload the Liberator when it arrived. He used to say that the NZ beer supply came in that way sometimes and some bottles mysteriously were known to find their way into the undergrowth by where the Liberator was parked. His cobber told me at his funeral that it was more than some.
You are spot on that things won’t be like peacetime exercises. Sometimes I think Allied air forces could learn something from the old Swedish Air Force dispersal doctrine, they trained how they planned to operate (ie spread out over a multitude of “runway” surfaces).

If you look at the history of minor airfields in Northern Australia and the South Pacific, the vast majority of them didn’t even exist until the war decided one was needed in a location. In North QLD, Lockhart River, Coen, Bamaga, Mareeba and Horn Island are all examples of this. Milingimbi, Gove and Maningrida in the NT are also the same.

My point is these current civil airfields all served a military purpose when first constructed. I’d imagine a lot of them would be rapidly upgraded if/when the need becomes obvious (government money available). New airfields will probably also be constructed, but given how many were created in WW2, I think most construction work will be repair and upgrades.

Like others mentioned, it’s possible to build a dirt strip in 72 hours (or so). But I’ll bet if we were at war (and the airfield was on Australian soil), there would be a fleet of semitrailers full of gravel, tar etc following close behind the bulldozers.
 

spoz

The Bunker Group
Anyone know the current state of Momote? Last I heard it was at least 737 capable, and it was my understanding that it was to be further upgraded. Mind you, when I was there 45 years ago it was still crushed coral, and we are talking about PNG - even if Australia or the US is paying.
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Anyone know the current state of Momote? Last I heard it was at least 737 capable, and it was my understanding that it was to be further upgraded. Mind you, when I was there 45 years ago it was still crushed coral, and we are talking about PNG - even if Australia or the US is paying.
Is it listed on the ICAO Airport list. That should have the details of the runway length surface etc. I haven't got the link but mr Google should be able to find the details for you.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
Anyone know the current state of Momote? Last I heard it was at least 737 capable, and it was my understanding that it was to be further upgraded. Mind you, when I was there 45 years ago it was still crushed coral, and we are talking about PNG - even if Australia or the US is paying
Proof in the pudding..

The works are complete and regular 737 passenger flights have started.
Upgrading of the airport goes beyond military needs, it will help the development of the island and importing and exporting goods from it. It really is dual use value.

It also mentions the upgrading to 737 services to Gurney.

The upgraded airports in PNG are actually quite decent now. Moving up to regular 737 operations will make these more do able airlinks, and hopefully flights directly from the Australian mainland in the future.

Wedgetail and P8's would obviously be capable from flying from such fields on a regular basis.
 

Pusser01

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Wedgetail and P8's would obviously be capable from flying from such fields on a regular basis.
It would appear as though only Jacksons International airport at Port Moresby or Komo Airport would be capable of handling one of the RAAF's KC-30's reasonably loaded. I agree with the comments above that getting fuel into Komo could be an issue aswell. Would the RAAF more likely base the KC-30' out of Scherger or Townsville to support fighter ops out of PNG? Cheers
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
It would appear as though only Jacksons International airport at Port Moresby or Komo Airport would be capable of handling one of the RAAF's KC-30's reasonably loaded. I agree with the comments above that getting fuel into Komo could be an issue aswell. Would the RAAF more likely base the KC-30' out of Scherger or Townsville to support fighter ops out of PNG? Cheers
KC30 would be much more problematic, as its not just the size of the aircraft, but the fuel they need for their missions, requires significant facilities. running regular sorties with 110tons of fuel would put significant strain on smaller airports, its much more suited to higher traffic airports.

Which would puts things like Momote towards the edge of our refueling capability. With an arc running out from Darwin and Townsville.
If we wanted to project further out to sea, then perhaps flying in from Guam.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
It would appear as though only Jacksons International airport at Port Moresby or Komo Airport would be capable of handling one of the RAAF's KC-30's reasonably loaded. I agree with the comments above that getting fuel into Komo could be an issue aswell. Would the RAAF more likely base the KC-30' out of Scherger or Townsville to support fighter ops out of PNG? Cheers
Another other option would to acquire some KC-130J and fly fuel in on those. The fuel could either be off loaded into bladders or aircraft hot fuelled directly from the KC-130J on the ground. It's an evolution that the USMC perform.

It may also be possible to get C-17As in and out of there. If a B737 can operate from there, no reason why a C-17A can't. Use it to lift fuel bladders on pallets in.
 
It would appear as though only Jacksons International airport at Port Moresby or Komo Airport would be capable of handling one of the RAAF's KC-30's reasonably loaded. I agree with the comments above that getting fuel into Komo could be an issue aswell. Would the RAAF more likely base the KC-30' out of Scherger or Townsville to support fighter ops out of PNG? Cheers
At least where I work, Honiara is listed as an option for the Boeing 777 (alternate only).

Although it’s only 2200m, it must have the pavement strength to support a 777 otherwise it wouldn’t be listed. That should mean it would be capable of handling the KC-30’s as well.
 

spoz

The Bunker Group
There is, or at least was, quite a large bulk fuel storage capacity at Lombrum. If it is still in reasonable nick one of the tanks could take F35 after a clean, and it had reticulation to the wharf for both resupply and provision of fuel to ships (it was once my job to arrange that resupply). Moving fuel from there to Momote would be a reasonably trivial exercise.
 
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