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Give them back to the Air Force

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Give them back to the Air Force

Old 31st Dec 2020, 06:42
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Give them back to the Air Force

Former air force chief Geoff Brown says Defence should hand the army’s troubled MRH-90 Taipan and ARH Tiger helicopters to the RAAF, arguing it is “part of an air force’s DNA” to keep complex aircraft ready to fly.

The Airbus helicopters have consistently failed to meet planned flying hours, with Defence blaming “chronic” spare parts shortages and inaccurate manufacturer information on maintenance-to-flying-hour ratios for their recent poor availability.

Air Marshal Brown, who served as air force chief from 2011 to 2015, said the MRH-90 and ARH were demanding European designs and posed difficult logistical challenges, which meant they would never approach the serviceability of US-made helicopters such as the Blackhawk.
Onya, Brownie, his chopper roots are showing, despite a conversion to high-speed jets later in his career. One of several of my students to make it to the top.
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Old 31st Dec 2020, 11:48
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arguing it is “part of an air force’s DNA” to keep complex aircraft ready to fly.
Australia is the size of Europe and repair shops for such complex aircraft are few and far between. A breakdown in outback Australia, however minor, often means serious downtime. Air forces often operate at well established and well resourced bases (within reason) and their equipment has very long legs.

It does appear that we purchased a Ferrari only to discover it doesn't make a great ute in the outback. Honestly, I don't know what the air force is going to do with them.
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Old 31st Dec 2020, 21:35
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Honestly, I don't know what the air force is going to do with them.
Probably the same as what we used to do with them - support the Army. But his point is that the machines might be better serviced.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 00:52
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Probably the same as what we used to do with them - support the Army
Didn't the Army gain possession of the helos because of the lack of RAAF support? If I recall correctly the Army had poor serviceability on take over because the RAAF still controlled the supply of spares and inter service rivalry prevented cooperation, that still the case?
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 01:44
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Dunno, Megan, I had left by then. It seemed that over 80% of our tasking had been army support. The RAAF put a reasonable emphasis on crew rest, which was why the aircrew stayed in hotels in Rocky instead of being in the exercise area. Protests from the brown guys led to us being in tents on the airfield, and further protests resulted in the aircrew being in the army camp in Shoalwater Bay.

With night ops becoming more prominent and the advent of NVGs, the lads were expected to "sleep" during the hot days in tents in the middle of a busy army camp, and still be alert for the night flights. One result of that was the fatal crash into the hill in SA at night on return to the camp.

A year or two later, the army took control of the choppers, not long after the Blackhawks arrived.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 03:40
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The RAAF put a reasonable emphasis on crew rest, which was why the aircrew stayed in hotels in Rocky instead of being in the exercise area.........the lads were expected to "sleep" during the hot days in tents in the middle of a busy army camp, and still be alert for the night flights
It's called training for the real thing. Our lads slept in tents, flew 140 hours, and more per month, 155mm howitzers next door firing day and night, and flying night ops, often being dragged out of bed at oh dark thirty because some place is in the process of possibly being over run. No 5* hotels on the front line.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 05:42
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Yeah, but it was you guys who then decided that it was like practicing bleeding, and instigated the hotel stays when the hot stuff had finished. I came along a little later.

Goes in circles. But thank you for what you did.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 07:17
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Originally Posted by Ascend Charlie View Post
...But thank you for what you did.
Exactly....and another exactly to get the minimum post word length.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 11:14
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Didn't the Army gain possession of the helos because of the lack of RAAF support? If I recall correctly the Army had poor serviceability on take over because the RAAF still controlled the supply of spares and inter service rivalry prevented cooperation, that still the case?
As I understood it, the problem was that many of the RAAF technicians had zero interest in becoming infanteers with spanners so the Army had to do with fewer engineers to try and maintain a fleet more complex than they had been used to.

Train hard, fight easy is a good mantra but fatigue will kill you whether you are at war or not so if you want to avoid doing the enemy's job for him you need rested crews.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 14:41
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Air Marshal Brown, who served as air force chief from 2011 to 2015, said the MRH-90 and ARH were demanding European designs and posed difficult logistical challenges, which meant they would never approach the serviceability of US-made helicopters such as the Blackhawk.
That's quite an indictment of the Australian acquisition system, essentially saying the logistics and supportability elements were either ignored or took a lower priority over something much shinier. As for the operational support, that must have been quite a surprise that battlefield helicopters would be tasked largely by the Army in field conditions! Don't worry, the UK has had this particular pissing contest for many decades, the advent of JHC fixed some problems and created others. Crew rest is a complete red herring - yes it's unacceptable to incur accidents during peacetime training due to fatigue and tiredness, but I'm fairly sure the Helmand Hilton did not have a special quiet suite for sensitive aircrew types. "Fight as you train, train how you fight", is a tired trope, but it is still as true today as it ever was.

The good Air Marshall sounds like at an operational level he is trying to treat the symptoms of a much deeper underlying condition at the procurement and acquisition level. Putting critical military capability where it can be supported rather than where it's needed, seems remarkably short-sighted.
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 14:53
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but I'm fairly sure the Helmand Hilton did not have a special quiet suite for sensitive aircrew types
Not sure you are right about that - crew rest and fatigue was an important issue.

"Fight as you train, train how you fight", is a tired trope, but it is still as true today as it ever was.
Not if it means flying when you are unfit to do so. There have been enough studies in recent history to compare the effects of fatigue with the effects of consuming alcohol - both are insidious and difficult to detect during their onset, especially by the sufferer. The days of the macho man flying 24 hours a day are thankfully behind us
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Old 1st Jan 2021, 22:04
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That's quite an indictment of the Australian acquisition system
Dead right there, sport.

Doesn't really matter what the armed forces ask for, it is more a matter of a politician asking "which contender will build a factory in my electorate, and get me some votes?"

The pollies have stuffed our acquisition system for decades, with some ridiculous purchases going through - all politically bought and modified instead of using an off-the-shelf proven item.
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Old 2nd Jan 2021, 01:02
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Originally Posted by Ascend Charlie View Post
Dead right there, sport.
The pollies have stuffed our acquisition system for decades, with some ridiculous purchases going through - all politically bought and modified instead of using an off-the-shelf proven item.
Did someone mention submarines?
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Old 2nd Jan 2021, 03:01
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Originally Posted by SRFred View Post
Did someone mention submarines?
or “Seasprites”......
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Old 2nd Jan 2021, 03:34
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As for the operational support, that must have been quite a surprise that battlefield helicopters would be tasked largely by the Army in field conditions
Don't know if the sentiment is still current in the Army, but the feeling at the time was that the Army wanted the helos to be under their control and not the RAAF was the result of the RAAF refusing to provide support (provide ammo drop) when the battle of Long Tan took place where the troops were at risk of being wiped out for lack of ammo. The RAAF were under orders from the top in Canberra that the aircraft/crews were not to be exposed to hazardous conditions, hence the RAAF adviser in task headquarters saying no dice, stating that he would have to get permission from Canberra. Following the refusal the US Army accepted the task. It's not clear if the RAAF adviser relented or if the pilot, Frank Riley, made the decision to go, he insisted on providing support and would go by himself if necessary. The co-pilot said he thought it was a suicide mission and in interview said, "It was insanity. I felt petrified. I tried to talk Riley out of it, Frank said shut up, stop giving me the shits". Two aircraft went and suitable decorated for their actions.
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Old 2nd Jan 2021, 05:04
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Yeah, troops in contact running out of ammunition and nobody thought to put the bullets in magazines before sending them on their way.
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Old 2nd Jan 2021, 09:53
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Yeah, troops in contact running out of ammunition and nobody thought to put the bullets in magazines before sending them on their way.
They are called 'rounds' - not bullets. D Company carried the standard 3 x 20 round magazines per rifleman plus M60 ammunition. When they encountered and were cut off by a Battalion-sized enemy force they not surprisingly ran short. Soldiers on foot patrol through jungle can only carry so much ammunition along with all the other equipment. That is why they rely on a resupply chain.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 00:22
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Quote:but I'm fairly sure the Helmand Hilton did not have a special quiet suite for sensitive aircrew types

Not sure you are right about that - crew rest and fatigue was an important issue.
I can only speak from deployments in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 as a Chinook mate.

Hardened accommodation at KAF, but crews at Bastion were sleeping 8 to a tent (airconditioned) until 2010 when they moved to hardened accommodation. I wouldn't classify anywhere at KAF/Bastion as quiet. Very few complaints in regard to accommodation at either location, and most crew duty/fatigue issues centred on tasking/flight hours/intensity rather than accommodation.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 03:48
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most crew duty/fatigue issues centred on tasking/flight hours/intensity rather than accommodation
The RAAF seem to have accommodation as the over riding requirement, as the following tale may show.



Above photo - Date 25th March 1972 just off the coast of Beecroft range. Forget now whether it was the SAS or Commandoes, but following messing about on canoe deployments from submarines they wanted use of some helos. The Army had first approached the RAAF for helicopter lift for the exercise because that was the RAAF raison d'ętre. The Army was rebuffed with the excuse that the Huey had not been cleared for ship board use. I was involved with ARDU test pilot Bob Treize of the RAAF and clearance for use of the Kiowa on board ships so can well believe that all the boxes had not been ticked to formally clear the Huey. In any event, the Army approached the Navy as they knew of the Wessex and suggested they might use that. They were told it would involve an immense task of stripping and then refitting the anti sub gear so why not use our Hueys. They then told the story re the RAAF Huey tale and we told them rubbish. The RAAF on learning the the Navy was going to do the task with Hueys suddenly found that RAAF Hueys could somehow magically operate from ships as well, but now found the Navy had encroached on their raison d'ętre, interservice rivalry and all that .

The Army wanted to do the insertion at first light, and that's when the fun started. We proposed that we all embark on the 24th and spend the time briefing, getting to know one another, and if the arm were twisted, perhaps even down an ale. Can’t do said the RAAF, accommodation on board Sydney sub standard, crew unable to get adequate rest in unfamiliar surroundings and noise, probably no air conditioning mentioned as well. Stay in the Nowra wardroom and fly out early in the morning in time to fly the dawn insertion was suggested. Can’t do, wardroom substandard, no air conditioning, and being on an airfield any night flying would disrupt their rest , have to stay in a motel. OK, stay in motel and fly out in time to meet the task. Can’t do on two grounds. Huey not equipped with RADALT so can’t fly over water at night (ship would be about half a mile off the coast), and besides can’t fly without breakfast and motel doesn’t serve that until 0700. The Army got their dawn insertion at noon.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 17:03
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Any airforce’s CORE business is operating and maintaining air assets airborne (all logistics, expertise, and operations are tailored for this purpose). Any Army’s CORE business is Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery.... Especially in smaller defense forces (which the Australians are as well, airborne personnel and assets are a niche asset within the Army and therefore do not necessarily become the attention/handling/budget/mindset it requires to properly operate these airborne assets. It is in that case way easier to integrate an already smooth operating Air Force unit with an Army or Navy operation.
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