2015 Yearbook

Page 1


2015 YEARBOOK Copy number XX Specially produced for Firstname Surname

Produced by Contact Publishing, PO Box 3091, Minnamurra, NSW 2533 www.contactairlandandsea.com


Compiled from the 2015 archives of CONTACT Air Land & Sea magazine





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8 Heads Up

News from around the world

12 SURVIVED AMBUSH Sergeant Troy Simmonds SASR

18 Iraq & Afghanistan

Ongoing commitments

32 Boar’s Run

7RAR at Cultana

34 Beersheba update 38 HMAS Canberra Insiders’ assessment



46 Wedgetail

Big success story

56 Narco Battles

A tonne of drugs – litterally

58 NATO’s Noble Jump 62 Ex Chong ju 66 Defending Darwin WWII remembered

70 Inner Sanctum

Snipers from an insider

82 New Military Equipment EF88 & LWAGL

92 Spartan 94 Kiwi NH90 96 Romeo Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com



Photo by Sergeant Shane Gidall, RAAF

You can only fuel some of the people some of the time

But RAAF’s KC-30A gets even closer to fueling all of the people all of the time. OK, so that’s a weak analogy, but roll with it. Pictured here is a US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II being refueled during continuing operations against ISIS in Iraq. Australia’s relatively new KC-30A multi-role tanker transport can and has been topping up the tanks of any aircraft that can take on fuel via a hose-and-drogue system (pictured). In the near future – and probably before the current campaign is finished – it will also be fully capable of refueling through its tail boom on operations, expanding its repertoire to all other aircraft, including C17 Globemaster, E-7A Wedgetail and even other KC-30As.


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Photo by Sergeant Christopher Dickson



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For the first time ever, the RAAF now have an air-to-air refuel boom capacity. Two KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transports made several boom connections on 13 May 2015, launching a new era in RAAF capabilities. During a three-hour flight from RAAF Base Amberley, one MRTT deployed its 17m aerial refuelling boom system mounted beneath its tail and mated it into the fuelling receptacle of a second MRTT. Both aircraft were flying at more than 500km/h when the refuelling officer on the top tanker used his fly-by-wire controls in the cockpit to mate with the other aircraft 14 times. While no fuel was transferred on this first trial, the boom is capable of offloading 4500 litres per minute. E-7A Wedgetail and C-17 Globemaster were the next platforms to marry up with the tanker, which has already successfully refuelled numerous other Australian, US and European aircraft types with its traditional wing-mounted hose-and-drogue pods. RAAF initially had five KC-30As but announced in July it was buying two more. 7


Army buys new bridge system


Photo by Liz Kaszynski, Lockheed Martin


Former HMA Ships Brunei (L127) and Tarakan (L129) are being gifted to the Philippines. Labuan (L128) was gifted to PNG. The Philippines bought the remaining three LCHs. Photo by Able Seaman Tom Gibson

CH-47F FLEET ARRIVES - THEN EXPANDS The first two of seven CH-47F Chinook ‘Foxtrot’ helicopters were commissioned into the Australian Army in Townsville on 5 May. In a project worth $631 million, the Australian Army will be re-equipped with seven F-model Chinooks plus two flight simulators to replace its six D models, with all major equipment deliveries scheduled for completion by August this year.

IRB can be used as a bridge or a ferry. GDELS photo


Australia has gifted two recently-decommissioned landing craft heavy vessels, including a package of spare parts, to the Philippines, Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews announced on 29 January. Mr Andrews said the former HMAS Tarakan and Brunei would be gifted to the Philippine Navy after being refurbished with new safety and navigation equipment. “I expect the vessels will be refitted and ready for hand over in May,” Mr Andrews said. The landing craft will be commissioned into the Philippines Navy and will provide additional intra-theatre sealift capability and greatly improve the Philippines’ ability to respond to natural disasters.

General Dynamics European Land Systems has signed a USD$28 million contract with the Australian Department of Defence to produce and deliver its Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB). The contract, under the Land 155 program for enhanced gap-crossing equipment, covers delivery of bridge bays and logistics package, as well as operator and maintainer training. IRB will replace the legacy Floating Support Bridge which was delivered by General Dynamics European Land Systems-Germany’s predecessor company EWK in the 1980s. The bridge system can be operated as a multi-bay ferry as well as a floating bridge and provides wide wet-gap crossing capability for tracked and wheeled vehicles, including the M1A1 Abrams tank.

Army Chaplain Brenton Fry blesses the new Chinooks. Photo Corporal Mark Doran

The first two Australian F-35A Lightning II aircraft have arrived at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where they will be used in a pool of aircraft for pilot training. Australia’s AU-2 was the first international-partner F-35 to arrive at the base. US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Todd ‘Torch’ LaFortune piloted the aircraft on the 90-minute ferry flight from the Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Australia’s air attaché to the US Air Commodore Gary Martin said the RAAF was delighted to be the first foreign partner nation with F-35A arriving at Luke AFB

The helicopters will be operated by Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment from RAAF Base Townsville. Both simulators have already been delivered and are being used by crews to undertake a wide range of training scenarios. The project also includes nearly $50 million in construction works at the RAAF base, which are scheduled to finish in 2017. Meanwhile, in December, US regulators approved an Australian request to buy three more F-model Chinook helicopters to add to the fleet of seven already planned. The US State Department approved the sale to Australia of three CH-47F aircraft, related equipment and support, estimated at an extra $180 million. The outgoing Delta-model Chinooks have proven themselves as the Army’s operational ‘workhorse’ and the new Foxtrots will further enhance this capability for the Australian Defence Force.

“This is an important milestone for Australia and we are looking forward to the commencement of our fifthgeneration pilot training here at Luke,” Air Commodore Martin said. Luke will be the central training hub for international F-35A training, with international and US students teamed together, learning how to effectively employ the fifthgeneration strike fighter. Brigadier General Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, said Australia was the first of nine non-US nations that would not only become part of the Luke AFB community, but would share in calling the West Valley a home away from home. The second Australian F-35A, AU-1,

arrived at Luke a few days later. Meanwhile, Australian pilots and maintenance crews have started rolling through their F-35A training programs in America. In one historic milestone, one of the Australian Joint Strike Fighters took to the skies with an Australian pilot in the seat for the first time. Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson was the first Australian F-35A pilot to qualify on the aircraft, but until this flight had been flying United States Air Force F-35s. “While I’m told that all the F-35s are the same, it’s awesome to finally go flying in a jet that has ‘Skippy’ painted on the side,” Squadron Leader Jackson said.

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AUSSIE HAWKEI WINS $BILLION$ CONTRACT The Aussie-designed-and-built Hawkei has won the ADF’s contract for a light protected mobility vehicle. Designed and built by Thales in Bendigo, Victoria – the same factory that spawned the much-loved Bushmaster – Hawkei is in many ways a ‘baby Bushmaster’, with similar blast and ballistic protection, but in a much lighter package. Hell, it even rolls on the same chunky wheels as the Bushmaster! Project LAND 121 Phase 4 will provide the Australian Army with a fleet of around 1100 protected mobility vehicles - light

(PMV-L) for command, liaison, utility and reconnaissance roles as well as 1000 trailers under a $1.3billion deal with Thales. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Hawkei would improve protection for soldiers and enable them to operate in high-risk areas. “Since 2004, the Thales assembly line has been producing the highly successful Bushmaster, widely recognised as one of the finest vehicles of its type in the world. “The start of [Hawkei] production in early 2016 will secure the highly skilled Bendigo workforce for full-rate production in 2018.”



An Australian Tiger helicopter test-fired BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWSTM) laserguided rocket late last year – scoring 10 out of 10 in the live fire flight trials. APKWS turns a standard unguided 2.75-inch (70mm) rocket into a precision laser-guided rocket to give warfighters a low-cost surgical-strike capability. David Harrold, director of precision guidance solutions at BAE Systems, said the demonstrations had proven the versatility and flexibility of the APKWS rocket. “The results are clear that our unique mid-body design can quickly and costeffectively transform current-inventory unguided FZ rockets into highly precise Photo by Richard Frigge

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weapons for greater mission success as it has done for Hydra rockets since 2012.” The 10 Aussie test shots were conducted in extreme heat at ranges from 1500m to 4500m, at altitudes from 200 feet to 1500 feet, and at speeds of up to 140 knots. All 10 shots hit the target within 1m of their guiding laser spot. Major David Paterson from the Army’s test team said the combination of a perfect seven-for-seven from an earlier ground trial and 10 for 10 from the flight trial confirmed this as a fully functioning capability. While the successful flight trials took place last November, the news took six months to emerge.

DUTCH DOZEN Thales’ Bushmaster production line in Bendigo is rolling on 12 new Dutch vehicles. The new Bushmasters will complement the 86 vehicles previously purchased by the Dutch between 2006 and 2009, and will be delivered by the middle of 2016.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said the new export order showed continuing confidence in the Bushmaster, its ability to protect troops in theatre and to save lives. “The Dutch order, whose value is confidential, follows exports to Japan and Jamaica over the past 18 months.”



Black Falcons soar again as Air Trainer retires

UNSTOPPABLE KIWI ICE LOADERS New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Antarctica worked around the clock in 24-hour daylight to unload and reload a massive supply ship in January. In a slick eight-day operation, the 53-strong team of NZDF personnel from Linton and Burnham Military Camps unloaded 389 crates from the Ocean Giant containing food, vehicles, scientific equipment and general supplies that will last 12 months – then reloaded the ship with 550 crates of waste and scientific equipment from the previous 12 months. The larger number of crates for the return journey was a result of poor weather in February 2014 that forced the Ocean Giant to leave Antarctica before all crates were loaded. The deployment of the Ship Offload Team is the biggest ‘surge’ of NZDF personnel to the ice each year, with a team made up of stevedores, riggers, general assistants and drivers.


There are now 101 NZDF personnel on the continent, with 23 more supporting operations in Christchurch. United States Marine Terminal Supervisor on the ice, Michael Davis, was full of praise for the Kiwis. “The NZDF team are probably the most enthusiastic people I know, and they’re definitely the most fit,” he said. “They do pushups for every container they unload and we can’t keep up with them. “They are absolutely a notch above.” Although the majority of the supplies were headed to the United States Antarctic Programme at McMurdo, Antarctica New Zealand took ownership of 31 crates that included a much-anticipated excavator, Land Cruiser and two Hagglunds for Scott Base, home to New Zealand’s national Antarctic program. Photo by Corporal Brad Hanson

Manawatu skies will see one of the biggest air shows in New Zealand on 24 to 26 February 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea. One of the stars of the show will undoubtedly be The Black Falcons, newly named following a social-media competition seeking a new title for the formation aerobatic team. With more than a dozen people suggesting the name, The Black Falcons was a clear winner. The name was previously used as the team name for 14 Squadron in the 1990s with the Aermacchi aircraft. Ohakea’s air show will mark 80 years of service to New Zealand by the RNZAF as an independent armed service. Chief of Air Force Air ViceMarshal Mike Yardley said he was looking forward to hosting the event. “Our formation aerobatic team will fly using the new T-6C Texan II aircraft and our large Boeing 757, P-3K2 Orion and C-130 Hercules aircraft are always popular,” Air Vice-Marshal Yardley said. “We’re pleased to be able to host our international Air Force counterparts and we know they will bring a wow factor “We hope the air show will provide the public with an increased understanding of why New Zealand has an Air Force, as well as giving people an entertaining day out.”

NEW TRUCK FLEET COMPLETE The last of 194 new Medium Heavy Operational Vehicles (MHOV) was handed over to the New Zealand Defence Force in a ceremony at Trentham Military Camp on 25 June, 2015.

Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia Pty Ltd won the contract to provide the new logistics support vehicles, which will replace the ageing Unimog and Mercedes fleet. The 4x4 6 tonne (HX60); 6x6 9 tonne (HX58), and 8x8 15 tonne (HX77) MHOVs are more powerful, offer increased carrying capacity and are operationally proven. Bolton armour kits and weapon mounts are also available. All variants can be loaded via HMNZS Canterbury’s side ramp or via landing craft. Several of the trucks were deployed to Australia for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015.

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NEW ROYAL RANKS Charles, Prince of Wales was granted new honorary ranks in the New Zealand Defence Force on 4 November – Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal New Zealand Navy, Field Marshal in the New Zealand Army and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. A defence spokesman said the appointments reinforced the relationship between the Royal Family and the New Zealand Defence Force. NZDF personnel took part in ceremonial duties throughout the official visit by Prince Charles and The Dutchess of Cornwall.



The New Zealand Army, Air Force and Police were called upon to pool their expertise and experience in mid November to extract a vehicle that had plunged 150m down a steep bank into the Mohaka River on the North Island’s east coast.

In a great example of joint interoperability police divers secured the car before the lift; Air Force supplied an NH90 to do the actual the lifting; and, Army’s 5 Movements Company ensured

the car (i.e. the air load) was correctly hitched before the helicopter picked it up out of the river. The incident was managed by the police and Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand (HQ JFNZ) at Trentham.

TAJI WARD NAMED FOR FALLEN MEDIC In mid November, HMNZS Te Kaha arrived back in Devonport Naval Base after what was an eventful year and a busy last week at sea. TEK took part in Ex Southern Katipo ’15 alongside HMNZS Canterbury and FNS Prairial, before heading for home with a detour into Wellington Harbour to uplift 20 lucky family members of the ship’s company for the trip up the east coast of the North Island.

While embarked, the families were they were shown aspects of day-to-day life at sea, with damage-control exercises and manoeuvre displays including high-speed turns in front of White Island. Formal rounds and a quiz night topped off the two days at sea for the family members who have now experienced life on board a Royal New Zealand Navy ship.

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A medical ward in Taji Military Camp has been named in honour of fallen New Zealand Defence Force medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker who was killed in Afghanistan nearly four years ago. The Jacinda Baker Ward is part of the medical centre in Taji Military Camp where Lance Corporal Baker’s friends and colleagues were deployed as part of the New Zealand-Australia Building Partner Capacity mission. New Zealand Defence Force contingents are working alongside the Australian Defence Force to train

the Iraqi Security Forces, with a focus on tactics, techniques and procedures, including battlefield medical training, to use in the fight against Daesh. Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall said the ward was a fitting tribute to Jacinda and the sacrifice she made in the service of her country. Lance Corporal Baker, a 26-year-old medic from Christchurch, was killed alongside Corporal Luke Tamatea and Private Richard Harris when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Bamiyan province on 19 August 2012.


On 26 August 2008, 1 Troop SASR, made up of four six-man patrols, flew 80km to American Forward Operating Base Anaconda near Khas Uruzghan intent on finding a Taliban leader they thought was in the area. No sooner were they on the ground than intelligence came in that their target had been spotted elsewhere – and the Aussies were stuck at Anaconda for several days waiting for a return flight. Rather than kick back and relax, however, the Aussies asked their American hosts if there was anything they could do to help. Among those Aussies was SAS team leader Sergeant Troy Simmonds. In truly understated Aussie fashion, Sergeant Troy Simmonds, a veteran of Somalia, East Timor and Iraq, recalls asking the soldiers from the American 7th Special Forces Group, “Where’s your hot spots?” “Well, we have these two valleys we can’t get into,” came the reply. Up for anything, the Aussies said, “We’ll have a go at them – make ourselves useful while we’re here”. So, ‘a plan was hatched’ –and the plan would see a sniper patrol clandestinely sent out on foot under cover of darkness to reconnoitre and set up an ambush and wait for a vehicle patrol that would overtly go out the next day. As planned, five Humvees set out for one of the troublesome valleys, heretofore designated a no-go zone, to stir things up. It didn’t take long. The snipers spotted three Taliban moving into what was thought to be a command position some 500m away, and took them out. When a heavily armed ‘technical’ arrived to collect the bodies, the combined Aussie/ American patrol fought through using rifles and grenade launchers, aided by the snipers. 12

A follow-up battlefield clearance confirmed 11 enemy down. That night, with the tactic proven, the SAS sent out two foot patrols to the second valley. At 0400hr on 2 September, 12 SAS plus two Aussie engineers and explosives detection dog Sarbi joined 10 Americans aboard the middle three of a five-Humvee convoy. The first and last vehicles contained 10 Afghan soldiers each. Near the mouth of the valley, the Aussies hopped out of the vehicles and clambered up into the hills to set up yet more ambush positions while the vehicles waited in the green zone before moving into the narrow valley. The convoy quickly attracted attention, but their movement in turn only brought the enemy to the attention of the waiting Aussies – as planned. Another seven enemy were killed in short order. Sergeant Simmonds’ patrol spotted another nest of Taliban, armed with rifles and RPGs about 800m away, but this group had children among them, so they were not engaged. As the day wore on, the decision to return to base was made. The 12 Aussies who rode Find, like and share CONTACT Air Land & Sea on

Below: SASR Sergeant Troy Simmonds heads off to catch the chopper that would take he and his men to a date with destiny – 26 August 2008 Left: Ana Kalay, scene of fierce fighting

out with the vehicles married up with the Hummers while the two sniper teams went back over the mountains and started their long walk back to base. The valley was so narrow and rough that the vehicles had to simply turn around and go back along the same track they had used to get into the valley – tactically not an ideal choice, because the hornets’ nest had been well and truly kicked. It was 3pm and the Taliban were pissed. Enemy radio chatter rallied all available men to, “Kill them – kill them all”. Mortars began to rain down, quickly followed by hails of bullets and rocketpropelled grenades. On foot, using the vehicles for cover, the allied patrol returned fire with everything they had – rifles, grenade launchers, 7.62mm and .50cal machineguns, and 66mm and 84mm anti-armour weapons. But the enemy were in much better positions – high ground, good cover and concealment, estimated at about 200 strong and “pouring a shit-tonne” of ordnance down on the convoy. The rough ground and the dismounted troops meant progress was agonisingly slow. An American soldier firing a .50 cal machine gun was hit in the arm early in the fight and, after rendering first aid, an Aussie jumped up behind the weapon to keep the big gun going. Close air support was called and 500lb bombs silenced the mortars and slowed the bullets just a little. But the convoy was far from saved. Having moved just 1km from the start point, they were still under heavy fire from at least two directions. American Sergeant Greg Rodriguez was next to go down – shot in the head and killed outright. Even while two Aussies carried his body to a Humvee the already-dead sergeant copped another Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

two rounds in the back, missing his Aussie aides. About then, a Chinook helicopter was spotted flying past at some distance and everyone knew it would have Apache escorts. Australian joint terminal attack controller Corporal Gibbo attempted to call them in, but the Dutch Apaches were reluctant, citing rules of engagement. Corporal Gibbo decided to move to higher ground to assist the pilots to pinpoint targets, but he was shot in the chest and was in a bad way. The Apaches were eventually and unceremoniously told to “Fuck off then” if they wouldn’t help. About now, the lead Afghan Hummer stopped, the Afghan soldiers trying to use its bullet-proof glass for cover – effectively halting the entire convoy in the kill zone. Another American went down with gunshot wounds to the legs – then another Aussie – and another. Sergeant Simmonds was on one knee, beside an American, returning fire in the direction of muzzle flashes, which was all he could see of the enemy on his side of the vehicle. “At that stage we were getting shot at from all directions, so there wasn’t anywhere you could really hide,” he says. “Bullets were landing all around us – it was kind of like rain on water in the dust. “One of those bullets landed very near me and ricochet’d into my calf. “I turned to the guy next to me and I said, “I just got shot”.” “God damn, so did I,” the Yank yelled back. Sergeant Simmonds stayed upright however – thanks to adrenaline, training and a desperate desire to live through this. 13

The US/Australian/Afghan patrol stops to talk to locals

Moments later, while ordering two of his men to go forward to get the lead vehicle moving again, an RPG landed directly between Sergeant Simmonds and the two other Aussies. The explosion blew all three off their feet and everyone who witnessed the explosion were certain their sergeant and colleagues were dead. Lying on the ground, peppered with shrapnel all up his left side and with a massive ringing in his ears, Sergeant Simmonds says he couldn’t feel his left arm, like it was numb from sleeping on it. “I couldn’t see a thing with all the dust the RPG had kicked up and I was actually afraid to feel for my arm because I was scared it wasn’t there. “But I eventually reached over and was relieved to find my arm was still attached – and the feeling started to come back into it.” The other two Aussies, although also wounded by shrapnel, got back on their feet and went forward to the lead vehicle as instructed. One banished the Afghan driver to the back and jumped into the driver’s seat, taking direct control of the situation. Sergeant Simmonds got up and attempted to move to 14

An Aussie sniper overlooks Ana Kalay valley

where the American commander was, to appraise him of the situation and why his men were going forward, but was shot at from close range by two Taliban behind some rocks.

Sergeant Simmonds’ damaged weapon.

He began to shoot back. Suddenly, his own rifle, which he had in his shoulder with his cheek on the stock, carefully aiming, kicked up and smashed him in the face. It had caught a round in its ejection port, undoubtedly saving the sergeant’s life. His weapon was now useless. Seconds later Sergeant Simmonds felt another massive pain in his lower body, which again knocked him down. “I didn’t actually know where I’d been hit because I was already covered in blood anyway. “What had happened, I found out later, was the bullet went through my right bum, past my bowels and my bladder and lodged in my left hip joint. “In surgery later they had to leave it where it was – it would have been too complicated and dangerous to take it out. “The surgeons said I was extremely lucky with that shot. They said they tried to push a rod through the entry wound to where the bullet was, without going through my bowel or vital organs – but couldn’t. “But somehow the bullet had gone through one side of my body to the other without nicking anything vital. “Anyway, at the time, I thought I was just winded,

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SAS Sergeant Troy Simmonds (above and below) is now retired

An Australian SOTG patrol prepares to depart Forward Operating Base Locke

so I got up and went to the American captain in the Humvee. “I was sort of dodging bullets all the while because there were bullets hitting the car all over. “I opened the door and the captain was sitting there with a radio to both ears, talking to two different people. “I told him that my guys were going forward to get the lead vehicle moving and assured him that everyone else was on or near a vehicle and ready to move. “As I closed the door, a burst of machinegun fire hit the back of the car, so there was no way I could go that way. “So I dropped on my back and actually shuffled underneath the car. “I was surprisingly calm under there and had a little time to go over our situation in my head.” Suddenly the Hummer started to move and Sergeant Simmonds grabbed a hold of something to go with it. But the ground was too rough to get dragged over, and he eventually had to let go – and try to avoid being crushed between the rear diff and the jagged rocks. Clear of the vehicle, which was still moving at walking pace, badly wounded in the both hips, with the rain of Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

bullets still dancing in the dust all around him, Sergeant Simmonds “hobbled like an instant old man” after the Hummer. As he got close, another RPG burst above the vehicle knocked him down again and sprayed the men inside with shrapnel. Some shrapnel from this RPG also sliced through the leash tethering Sarbi to her handler, Corporal David ‘Simdog’ Simpson. Sarbi took off – and 14 months later stamped her own pawmark on the pages of Australian military history when she was recovered during an American SF raid on a Taliban compound, returned to her super-grateful owners and eventual retirement in Australia. Catching up with the Hummer, Sergeant Simmonds found there was no room for him inside the vehicle nor were any of the men in it in a fit state to help him, so he staggered around the front where he managed to lodge himself in the gap between the radiator and the bullbar. Just then, another RPG airburst above the back of the vehicle peppered those inside with even more shrapnel. One of those wounded this time was an Afghan interpreter, who was badly hit in the head and thrown 15

SASR snipers trek to an ambush position out of the vehicle – and saved by Trooper Mark Donaldson who was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions. Four other gallantry medls were be awarded for surrounding events, including a Medal for Gallantry to the Aussie who took control of the lead vehicle. Curled in a foetal position on the front of the Hummer, Sergeant Simmonds became a deliberate target again. Rounds started peppering the bonnet and the bullbar, inches from the badly wounded, almost deaf, covered in blood, armed with a useless weapon and allbut helpless Aussie, who was wearing only the shredded remnants of what was once a uniform. “I thought it was just a matter of time before I got hit again,” he says. “I remember actually thinking, “I’ve been hit in the body already and I think I’m alright, but if I get hit in the head then it’s all over”. I didn’t have a helmet on so I was quite worried about my head. “Then I spotted the heavy tow chain wrapped around the bullbar, so I unravelled that and wrapped it around my head – while bullets were still pinging on metal all around me.” 16

Sergeant Simmonds, happy with an air ordnance drop But now a new danger seeped into his mind. The patrol had a strong suspicion that the enemy may try to cut them off by planting an IED in the pass up ahead, which would really finish them off. “It was a very narrow pass – not much more than a vehicle width, with rock on either side. “Anyway, my guy who was now driving the front vehicle did a bit of a dynamic move and went through the pass sort of up on an angle, with one set of wheels up on the rocks, and he got through. “So all the other vehicles did the same thing, following in his tracks, and we all got through – under a huge amount of fire. “They had machineguns on us from every angle, but we got through and gradually the fire started to ease off – and that’s when I got really nervous. “I was thinking, “OK we got away with that – now we’ll probably hit an IED or something”. “And riding behind the bullbar is probably not the best place to be when a vehicle hits an IED.” Reflecting on the ambush years later, Sergeant Simmonds says it was probably a bit selfish worrying about himself instead of his men, but concedes it was

probably human nature too – and there wasn’t a lot he could have done for anyone in his precarious, exposed position anyway. But, as luck would have it, there was no IED on the route back to base and the convoy rumbled into FOB Anaconda to the waiting arms of a plethora of colleagues eager to triage the wounded and get the worst of them evacuated as quickly as possible. “The triage all went very well. They grabbed us and put us on stretchers and took care of us really well. “They flew me and a couple of others to Tarin Kot, where there had just been a turnover of surgical teams and so the surgeons who worked on us were a collection of top people from Melbourne and Sydney – all reservists. “The bullet in my lower leg wasn’t a big issue. It was a ricochet so it had broken up before going in. So they took out all the pieces easy enough “Those wounds took a while to heal up though. “Like I said, the bullet in my hip had to be left in place – and I was also shitting blood for about 12 months from all the trauma around that area – but otherwise my recovery was fairly OK.”

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The snipers exfiltrate from Ana Kalay

Sergeant Troy Simmonds (right) with an Aussie and an American colleague, in a sniper position Sergeant Simmonds made a good recovery and was posted to the training squadron at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne, home of the SAS, to help on the SASR selection course and train new guys in the basic skills of the SAS soldier. He says he really enjoyed that role for a couple of years. He also enjoyed plenty of time recuperating and spent lots of time with his wife, who had only seen him for three or four months a year since he joined the SAS. Inevitably, however, he was posted back to an operational squadron and again deployed to Afghanistan. “I had some trepidation going back there, but this time I wasn’t going outside the wire. “My job on this trip was helping to plan missions and assist and advise young officers in how the SAS does business.”

Left: The patrol heads into badlands Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

Now retired from the SAS, Troy Simmonds says he feels no ill effects from his service generally nor from the ambush that almost took his life. “I saw some pretty bad stuff over there, but I think I have the capacity to put things in perspective and to compartmentalise them. It’s almost like I can look back on that part of my life and see that I was like acting a role at that time, and now I’m in a different role. “I know some blokes do suffer from psychological issues after something like that, but I don’t – or I don’t think I do. “I can think about it and talk about it and look at photos or videos from over there and it doesn’t have a massive emotional affect on me.” Troy Simmonds spent 22 years in the Australian Army and did six tours of Afghanistan with the Special Operations Task Group. The Battle of Ana Kalay lasted about two hours and resulted in one US KIA, with one wounded. Of nine Aussies wounded, one was considered life threatening at the time, but all survived. After-action assessments put the enemy death toll at about 80. 17


Home Grown Docco

The Australian Army has released a graphic and realistic account of its 12 years in Afghanistan in a series of online videos. ‘The Longest War: The Australian Army in Afghanistan’ was launched at the Australian War Memorial on May 7. The videos show what Army did in Afghanistan and how our soldiers lived and worked. They are powerful and sometimes emotional accounts of our soldiers’ experiences in their own words. With more than three hours of video, some of which has never been seen before, interviews with soldiers and their families, and more than 1000 images, The Longest War provides an unprecedented insight into the lives of soldiers in a harsh and uncompromising environment. 18

It all started as a vague idea from [now-retired] Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison who wanted to find a way for the Army to tell its story of its time in Afghanistan to the Australian public. “We’ve introduced a contract with Australia; it talks about our values and the fact that we protect this country, not just its geographic land mass but also its interests and its values all around the world,” Lieutenant General Morrison said. “This work is done by our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and almost completely it is done out of the public eye, with almost no recognition of individual service and action. “This is an attempt to tell their story, in their words, often with their own video footage.

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“This is not a history or a documentary that will be shown on TV with commentary from those who weren’t there – this is our Army telling our story about our war.” Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said he was pleased and privileged to launch the comprehensive story of the Army’s contribution to Operation Slipper. “For the Australian soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan and their families, The Longest War is a story of joy and grief, of pride and loss,” Mr Andrews said. “In more than a decade of operations we should never forget the Army lost 41 Australian soldiers.” Mr Andrews said it was appropriate to launch the videos during the Centenary of Anzac and at the Australian War Memorial. “This centenary is about our opportunity to shed a light on the support that our contemporary veterans and their families need in an ongoing way,” he said. “We must also remember the 1600 Australian service men and women who continue to serve our nation’s vital security interests in the Middle East today.” The story of The Longest War is structured into nine chapters. Each has a theme, but the narrative is fluid, designed to enable viewers to create their own journey through the material in their own way and in their own time. Corporal Mark Donaldson VC said he thought the concept was fantastic. “From my perspective as a serving soldier, I think it’s great the Army has finally had a chance to tell our story through our eyes,” Corporal Donaldson said. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

“It’s the soldiers’ stories – it’s about what they saw, felt and experienced. “It is quite untainted, it’s raw and it’s how it was. “The beautiful thing is it covers from 2001 all the way through to 2013 so it really gives a timeline of the Army and the ADF in Afghanistan. “It is going to reach out and affect a lot of families and a lot of these families may not have heard their members talk about these sorts of things in such a way.” Describing his vision of The Longest War, Lieutenant General Morrison said his only stipulation was for the story to be told without gloss. “That’s why there’s footage of our soldiers being wounded, because they were. That’s why there are interviews with men and women who have been deeply affected by their operational service, because they are,” he said. “This is what your Army does and I couldn’t be more proud. “For all of you who have served in Australia’s longest war, you have done this country proud. “Well done and thank you for telling your story.”

Find this excellent video series at army. gov.au/thelongest-war/ 19

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Boots on the ground

Australian and New Zealand Army contingents have commenced training Iraqi Army soldiers as part of the international Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission in Iraq. Troops from the Iraqi Army’s 76th Brigade, a formation within the Iraqi 16th Division, are now receiving instruction in a diverse range of military skills including, advanced weapon handling, laws of armed conflict and complex obstacle breaching techniques. The combined training force, known as Task Group Taji, consists of around 300 Australian soldiers and 110 New Zealand soldiers. The aim of the Australian and New Zealand mission is to help the Iraqi government to prepare sufficient forces to lead the counter-attack against Daesh in an effort to regain control of its territory. Defence says the relationship with the Iraqi Army training force has started positively with the Commander of the 76th Brigade requesting additional training from the Australian-New Zealand training team. The 76th Brigade’s capability will be further enhanced with an extensive consignment of essential equipment to be delivered in the coming weeks. A New Zealand Defence Force spokesman said training would deliver a broad range of individual and military skills to the Iraqi Security Forces. International security specialist New Zealand Major Josh Wineera, who led development of the training program the Kiwis will deliver, said the purpose of the BPC mission was to train Iraqi security forces (ISF) to a point where they are capable of commencing combat operations with a standard of training agreed by both the Iraqis and coalition trainers. “It also aims to train ISF to a state where they are considered a selfsustaining capability for the Iraqi government,” Major Wineera said. “To achieve this, a comprehensive pre-deployment training strategy was designed by a team of experts and specialists in a variety of fields, including linguists, training evaluation, coaching and mentoring and irregular warfare. “The design team also looked deeply into cross-cultural adult training and cross-cultural adult learning. “Key factors that have been focused on in pre-deployment training are cultural respect and humility, gaining professional respect and mutual trust and partnered evaluation. “The pre-deployment training program also recognises that the ISF soldiers who arrive for training will be at varying ‘training states’ on arrival, ranging from training state one – which is the equivalent of a raw recruit, to training state three – a partner of equal ability who is competent and might be battle-hardened.” Task Group Taji is stationed at the Taji Military Complex northwest of Baghdad and has a two-year mission where ADF and Kiwi personnel will work to build the capacity of units of the regular Iraqi Army. A further 20 ADF personnel will serve within coalition headquarters in Iraq. Australia and New Zealand join a number of other countries already contributing to training Iraqi forces, including Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK and the US. In addition to Task Group Taji’s BPC mission, Australia’s Air Task Group continues its air operations in Iraq. Australia’s Special Operation Task Group, which is contributing to the advise and assist mission, will be reduced later this year.

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More than 700 soldiers from Iraq’s 76th Brigade, which is part of the 16th Division of the Iraqi Army, marched out on 28 June at the conclusion of their training – the first cohort trained by the Aussie and New Zealand training mission at Taji. After graduation, the group were slated to leave Taji Military Camp to join the fight against Daesh. Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall said the eight-week training programme had been well-received by the Iraqi troops and their trainers had covered a range of individual and military skills, including weapons handling, tactics, urban operations as well as the planning and conduct of operations. He said it was encouraging to watch the confidence of the Iraqis grow as they received their training. “It’s also good to hear from them that they are confident and motivated to take on Daesh,” Major General Gall said.

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IRAQ MISSION The second rotation of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force trainers left for Iraq on 3 November to take part in the Building Partner Capacity mission to train Iraqi security forces. About 300 Australian and 105 NZDF personnel left Brisbane as part of the combined Australia-New Zealand non-combat training force known as Task Group Taji II. Farewelling the contingent in Brisbane, New Zealand’s Major General Tim Gall said the first rotation had achieved good progress in the six months since the training mission began. “The Iraqi soldiers as well as their officers have been eager to learn the skills they need to push back Daesh and recover lost territory,” Major General Gall said. “Some of those we have trained are now taking part in the counter-offensive against Daesh. “The training we and our Australian partners have been providing has helped the Iraqi Army slowly regain their confidence in themselves and their equipment. “The Iraqis need to keep or increase this level of confidence to have a far better chance of defeating Daesh.” The training provided by Task Group Taji covers weapons handling, shooting, combat first aid and other skills. Commander of Australia’s 7th Brigade Brigadier Adam Findlay, whose troops make up the majority of the departing force, said the soldiers had spent the preeceeding months conducting training focused on replicating conditions they may face in Iraq. “Our soldiers are ready and well prepared for any challenge this deployment may bring,” Brigadier Findlay said. 24

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ABOVE: New Zealand soldiers are briefed during pre-deployment training at Canungra. MAIN: Aussie soldiers are formally farewelled on a parade at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane. BELOW: Not all the tears shed before departure were for loved ones, as soldiers experience the ‘gas chamber’ in Canungra during pre-deployment training.

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BACK ON THE PHOTOS BY CAPTAIN CHEYNE ALLEN Australian force protection soldiers look out over Qalat from FOB Eagle. 26


Amatuer photos released by the Department of Defence without fanfare show Australian soldiers operating on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan on and around ANZAC Day 2015. The soldiers found themselves back on the front line in Afghanistan in April and May when the ANA headquarters they were mentoring launched an offensive against insurgents in Zabul province. Advising the Afghan National Army’s 205 Corps, the Aussie soldiers went forward with the corps HQ from 18 April to 15 May 2015 to continue advising their mentees near Qalat during an ANA mission to clear insurgents from key terrain along Highway One and along the ‘Zabul-Ghazni seam’ – the eastern boundary with their sister 203 Corps. A team of four Australian advisors and eight guardian angels was maintained with 205’s forward HQ during the month-long operation. The Australian-led 205 Corps Coalition Advisory Team (205 CAT) provides advice, training and assistance to the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps headquarters staff at Camp Hero in Kandahar province. Made up of about 20 Australians as well as Americans and Bulgarians, 205 CAT’s mission is to support independent Afghan National Army operations.

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This photo: Private Zack Murray. Below: Private Liam Kwasha. Bottom: Captain Cheyne Allen and Private Brian Amber leave Qalat on a US Army Chinook. Below with flag: Private Shane Lindgren at Forward Operating Base Eagle, on Anzac Day.


PHOTOS BY CORPORAL DAVID COTTON Afghan National Defense and Security Force students at the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) School prepair detonation cables during an EOD training scenario at the Central Training Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan.


Taking the

It takes bravery to tackle explosives, and Australian military experts are continuing to help their Afghan allies to take the blast out of the fight. Last year, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) claimed more than eight lives a day in Afghanistan, with devices ranging from rough, cobbled-together contraptions, to sophisticated devices. Three Australians are among the dedicated team of counterIED (CIED) advisers trying to help the Afghan government stop the carnage. Flight Sergeant Dean Maher is one of those currently deployed on Operation Highroad, Australia’s contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. Resolute Support is focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and Afghan security institutions. Flight Sergeant Maher advises at the Central Training Centre in Kabul, which delivers both explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and IED defeat (IEDD) courses. “EOD training deals with unexploded ordnance found in the public domain. It could be from previous conflicts or the current troubles,” Flight Sergeant Maher said. “IED training deals with specific devices created by the insurgents to attack Coalition forces and the ANDSF.” Flight Sergeant Maher said his role was to engage with central command and address any training issues they might have. “I help ensure the tactical-level instruction is being carried out correctly, that there are no issues with the training, they have the correct number of instructors and other aspects of training delivery,” he said. “CIED-trained personnel in the ANDSF are needed now more than ever – the IED trend certainly isn’t decreasing. “Here in Kabul we mainly see vehicle-bourn IED threat whereas in wider Afghanistan we see what we’ve been facing for some time now in victim-operated and radio-operated devices in places like roadsides and areas where the ANDSF usually patrol.” Flight Sergeant Maher said that as soon as the students graduate from their training they will return to their provinces all over Afghanistan and begin field operations immediately. “We’re supporting this training to make sure that when the Coalition leaves Afghanistan, the Afghans have a sustainable training capability for the future. “The current mission has a schedule to have the training entirely led by Afghan instructors by the end of 2015 – and I believe they’re on track to meet that.”

Out of the fight



Having taken over from Force Protection Element-2 (FPE-2) earlier in 2015, soldiers from Townsville’s 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) and 3rd Combat Service Support Battalion (3CSSB) bonded as FPE-3 conducting forceprotection duties in support of Operation Highroad in Qargha and Kandahar, Afghanistan. Now part of Joint Task Force 636, a platoon-sized team of soldiers in Kandahar perform ‘Guardian Angel’ and transport duties for Coalition members of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps Coalition Advisory Team – 205 CAT. Platoon Commander Lieutenant Ryan Muller said his team was well prepared to step into the role. “We conducted 10 weeks of force preparation training leading up to the deployment and that was a good leadup package which included everything from legal briefs, medical training, weapon training and integration work with the advisors we’ll be protecting,” Lieutenant Muller said. “I think we’ll do well. We’ve got a very intelligent group of soldiers that work here and I’ve got absolute faith that they’ll do their job correctly and at their highest capacity.” ‘Guardian Angel’ duties require a soldier to provide individual security to advisors, which ensures they can remain focused on their role of advising while out on site at Camp Hero where the 205th Corps of the ANA is based. “One of the challenges for us is providing the control measures for our soldiers who are really conducting an individual task within a platoon environment versus how we would conventionally operate with section tasks within the platoon environment,” Lieutenant Muller said. “I think the mindset of every soldier is positive and they know that we’re here for the benefit of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and also for the Afghans.” 30

Guardian Angel, or GA, Private Liam Kwasha said it was different to what he expected but he was so far enjoying the opportunity. “My role is basically to protect my advisor when he is on site advising the ANA,” Private Kwasha said. “My duties involve checking the work area initially, standing watch and calling in any situations. “One of the challenges is the cold – it’s a bit different to Townsville. “Also, when working with the Afghans, the language barrier is a challenge. Most of them speak scattered English but that can vary, so it can be difficult.” The team will get to see both sides of Afghanistan’s weather having deployed in the height of winter and staying for the hotter months later in the year, however Lieutenant Muller is confident in his team’s preparation for the six-month deployment. “We’ve had a good and long build up and training process prior to deploying here, including being trained up on the latest military equipment that we’ve deployed with,” he said. “That equipment provides us a huge level of security and safety while conducting our operations, which is the most important thing.” The transport function for the FPE is conducted by the Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) section, which is made up of eight Bushmaster crews – 16 soldiers, from the Royal Australian Corps of Transport. The PMV section supports the protected movement of advisors and their GAs on daily tasks outside the main Coalition bases. The RACT soldiers are among the first from their corps to conduct this kind of mission since the transition of the PMV from Armoured Corps.

Private Liam Kwasha stands vigilant on Guardian Angel duty at Camp Hero

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Private Benjamin Jones maintains watch from a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle en route to Camp Hero.

An Australian Army Bushmaster drives through a Bazaar in Kandahar.

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Corporal Damon Hastie mans a MAG58 general-purpose machine gun on an Australian Bushmaster enroute to Camp Hero.

Private Zachary Murray maintains watch while on Guardian Angel duty at Camp Hero.

Private Dermott Lane undertakes security duties at a workshop at Camp Hero in Kandahar, Afghanistan.


Members of the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, conducted Exercise Boars Run at Cultana Training Area from 10 through 18 September 2015, in preparation for a big year in 2016.

The exercise happened in two phases: Phase 1 a company live-fire activity and Phase 2 a battalion advance-to-contact with company clearances of urban objectives. I popped in for a quick visit in the early stages of Phase 1 and I was impressed by what I saw. My visit wasn’t meant to be so brief, however. You can read more about my four-day road trip for a one-day visit in my Editor’s Blog, aptly titled ‘The worst first blog ever’, on our web site. Suffice to say, my visit wasn’t planned as a quick in/ out and my hosts’ plan for the longer-version embed looked pretty exciting when it was spelt out to me on arrival – a company clearance of an enemy position dug in to a full-on WWI-style trench system, and two further follow-on clearances of smaller enemy outposts – all using live ammunition, with live mortar and M113AS4 support. This promised to be big. But for me, even as the action on the battlefield heated up, the rumbles in the tummy spoke of something dodgy eaten on the journey. Before I get to that, though, let me tell you I did meet some very interesting characters and took some notes, which I’d like to pass on. WO2 Keefe was my first contact with the battalion. He 32

met me at Range Control before handing me off to the adjutant for briefing. I liked WO2 Keefe. A talkative chap with lots he wanted to tell me. “7RAR is an awesome place for a can-do soldier to work,” he enthused. “The boss’ attitude is, “make it happen, and if you can’t make it happen, I want to know who got in your way”. “There’s a real sense that everything is done for a reason around this battalion – everything makes sense.” According to WO2 Keefe, every exercise 7RAR undertakes is conducted as though it were the real thing – event RSO&I [reception, staging, onward movement and integration]. On Boar’s Run, that was done at Alamein Camp – more famously know as former Baxter Detention Centre. One interesting thing he told me about this process was that every soldier was weighed clean-skin and again while carrying all his kit. And the modern soldier’s kit weighs, on average, 50kg. However, one soldier weighed in with 57kg of kit and, after all his gear was stripped down to figure out what was excess, a new battalion policy was formulated –

the gunner doesn’t have to carry the night sight for the gun. Out in the field too I noticed things being done ‘properly’. Gun pickets were placed and manned properly. Noise discipline was observed and policed at all times – which wasn’t fun for this hard-of-hearing reporter in the dead of night. And all this even in a rear-echelon harbour when the boss wasn’t around. An anecdote relayed to me might explain why. A keen rear-echelon commander – a junior officer – was having difficulty communicating with the front lines, so he decided to move and set up his radios on higher ground. Unfortunately, this put him ahead of the main body and, when the boss twigged, the junior officer was informed that he had ‘driven over a landmine and all his party were dead’. All this realism is well justified, of course, as 7RAR rolls towards 2016 and the ‘ready’ phase of the Army’s raise, train, sustain cycle. My very brief experience out bush with 7RAR didn’t go brilliantly from an ‘embedded media’ point of view, but I learnt a lot in this regard. Of course, I learnt I’m too old and too unfit for grunting – that really is a young man’s game (unless

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you’re used to it). Note to self – fix this! I also learnt I’ve been out of ‘the system’ a bit too long to just slip back in. And, I’ve been spoilt by Iraq and Afghanistan ‘embed’ experiences, where my hand was held on every step of the trip. Yes, that could be frustrating when I wanted to talk to soldiers without an officer hovering about or I wanted to go somewhere other than on the guided tour. But I also never had to worry about where or when my next meal was coming from, and had disposable water bottles thrust into my hand ever five minutes. On the home front, however, having no dedicated media escort and a host unit knowing in advance that ‘he’s ex Army’ actually turned out to be a serious disadvantage. Being my first embed in a very long time in a domestic bush setting, I actually needed my hand held, especially in terms of logistic support. In preparation for this trip I had all my cameras and GoPros and batteries and technical reporter-type bits squared away. I even had sufficient socks and jocks and my comfy swag sorted. But what I didn’t even consider was my basic ‘soldiering’ kit – probably because I haven’t been bush as a soldier for 15 years! So, when I was handed two ration packs with an assumption that my catering needs were covered by that Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

for the next 48 hours, my adapt-and-overcome gene got a sudden wake-up call. But, you try living out of a ration pack with no KFS, no cups canteen, no hexi stove and just one 700ml water bottle, and no basic webbing to carry them in, and see how well you survive! One surprising godsend though, was to find that FRED was still included in the rat pack. At least I could open the tins. Anyway, armed with all my Gucci camera gear and my one little water bottle, I was attached to a pretty friendly sergeant and told to follow him. We stopped for a chat with a not-so friendly sergeant who said, “You’re not exactly dressed for crawling in dirt”. “Sorry dude, I’m here to do a job and it doesn’t involve crawling in no dirt,” I retorted as the infantrysergeant’s brain flipped between whatthefuckyousay and mustnotkillcivvies before turning away with a “Humph”. So I followed my friendlier sergeant for several kilometres through Cultana’s very distinctive saltbush country, heading for the big company-sized assault on the WWI-style trench system. This assault was going to be something to behold – or so everyone was very keen to tell me. Everyone from the private soldier to the CO asked if I’d seen the trenches yet, and when I said no, the enthusiasm in

their eyes told me I was in for a treat. So, after several hours walking in the blazing sun, shooing billions of blowflies from my sweaty face, and snapping the odd photo of soldiers on the march (saving my batteries for the big assault), the shooting finally started. But, hang on! What are they shooting at? Where are the trenches? Aw shit – turns out I’m attached to the platoon laying down suppressing fire from the next ridge over – and those trenches and that spectacle is waaaay over yonder, and I can see diddly. After the battle, when we all gathered round for a debrief – and I finally got to see the rather impressive trench system – the very old-school regimental sergeant major who gave the soldiers a rev-up for what he perceived was a lacklustre first assault on the trenches, uttered some stern words to the soldiers that made my decision to cut out early quite a bit harder. His kicker argument went something like, “If any of you bastards think this is hard work and you’re thinking your sore knee or your sore head [yep, that’s me] might just be the excuse you need to pull the pin – well forget it. “You people need to seriously harden up and become real chummy with your new best friends, Mr Paracetamol and Mr Ibubrufen.” 33



Following news of significant unit movements in northern Australia late in 2014, we received a letter to the editor asking about the Australian Army’s new armoured cavalry regiments and what it all meant for older units and formations. So, wee asked Defence for an official update on the Australian Army’s Plan Beersheeba and how the restructure is affecting specific units.

Plan Beersheba is the Australian Army’s modernisation plan announced by government in November 2011 and re-affirmed in the Defence White Paper 2013. Plan Beersheba considers the Army’s role in the broader Australian Defence Force and incorporates the lessons learned over a decade of continuous operations in order to achieve government direction to the Army in a more sustainable manner. One of the principal features of Plan Beersheba is the force generation cycle – a 36-month period in which the three combat brigades of the Army rotate through phases of readiness. The three phases are the ready phase, the readying phase, and the reset phase. Each phase is 12 months long. The force generation cycle allows the Army to maintain a combat brigade (or parts thereof) on operations, or ready for deployment at short notice, indefinitely. Under Plan Beersheba, the Army will achieve a common brigade structure that yields three standard combat brigades. These combat brigades are supplemented and reinforced by capabilities from three supporting brigades and a Reserve force of six brigades. The Reserve brigades align closely with their full-time counterparts as part of a total-force concept for the Army. Employing a force generation cycle across common brigade structures allows for the Army to focus training on basic war-fighting skills across the range of operation types in which the government may require assistance. This approach maintains the necessary operational preparedness and warning times. Army describes this as training in foundational war-fighting. Implementation of Plan Beersheba is progressing well, with the 1st Brigade adopting the new common brigade structures in 2014 followed by the 3rd Brigade at the start of 2015. The 7th Brigade is scheduled to adopt the structures from 2016. 34

Can you please outline what units and formations have been affected by Plan Beersheba – movements, amalgamations, establishments, disestablishments, renamings, role changes, re-equipping and so on? The 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades are in the process of being reorganised into structurally identical Combat Brigades. With the exception of the new armoured cavalry regiment this has involved reorganising existing units rather than amalgamations and disestablishments. The most significant change in roles within the combat brigades is the change from three different types of infantry (mechanised, motorised and light) battalions to a standard infantry battalion structure in all three brigades, and the raising of armoured cavalry regiments. The armoured cavalry regiment is the name given to the new common structure for the 1st Armoured Regiment, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry). Each regiment will consist of a cavalry squadron, an armoured personnel carrier squadron and a tank squadron. The units are not being renamed. The 2nd Division will have a directed role to provide a variety of capabilities, including up to an infantrybased battle-group as round-out and reinforcement to the combat brigades. The six brigades of the 2nd Division are grouped into pairs, which run through a force generation cycle that aligns with one of the combat brigades. This allows the Reserve brigade pair to train with the Combat Brigade that they may be called upon to reinforce. Within the 2nd Division this change involved modifications in brigade structures and the allocation of independent sub-units under command of a nearby unit headquarters. Artillery batteries now provide mortar capability to the infantry battalions, and armoured units have protected mobility lift roles. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, has

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been allocated as the core of the landing force for the Australian amphibious capability. What is the makeup of the new/proposed armoured cavalry regiments? The armoured cavalry regiments will contain a unit headquarters structured to command battle-group-sized combined-arms operations, a logistic support subunit, an ASLAV-based cavalry squadron, an M113-equipped armoured personnel carrier squadron and a tank squadron. How many armoured cavalry regiments will there eventually be and what will they be called? There will be three armoured cavalry regiments when Plan Beersheba is implemented. The 1st Brigade armoured cavalry regiment will be the 1st Armoured Regiment, the 3rd Brigade ACR will be the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 7th Brigade ACR will be the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) (2/14LHR (QMI)). In order to have one armoured cavalry regiment in each brigade, 2nd Cavalry Regiment transferred from 1st Brigade in Darwin to 3rd Brigade in Townsville at the end of 2014. Where will they be located? The 1st Armoured Regiment is located mainly in Darwin, with a single squadron located in Adelaide. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment is located with the rest of the 3rd Brigade in Townsville. 2/14LHR (QMI) is located in Brisbane at Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane. The final location of 2/14LHR (QMI)’s tank squadron is yet to be determined and it will be several years before it is raised. What is the makeup of a ‘typical’ ACR? An armoured cavalry regiment will contain an ASLAVbased cavalry squadron, an M113-equipped armoured

personnel carrier squadron and a tank squadron along with support vehicles. How close to ‘typical’ will each actual armoured cavalry regiment eventually be? The three units will possess the same structures and identical entitlements to personnel and equipment. The actual structure of each unit will remain the same, but the composition will vary due to normal fluctuations as each moves through Army’s force generation cycle. What does the typical new command chain look like and is there any major change from the old structure? The chain of command will look the same as usual for units and sub-units within a brigade structure. If units have been renamed, disestablished, amalgamated or otherwise ‘changed’ under Plan Beersheba, what happens to their Battle Honours, Guidons etc? The major change in the Regular Army’s order of battle has been the transfer of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment from the 1st Brigade to the 3rd Brigade. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s lineage and associated heritage remains with the unit in the new location. In order to implement the move of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to the 3rd Brigade, B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment, a sub-unit of the 3rd Brigade, will be transferred to the 11th Brigade and be reconstituted at some time in the future. In the meantime, B Squadron’s Guidon and other heritage items are in the custody of the School of Armour. Over the past several years a number of changes to units and sub-units have been made in the 2nd Division and the care of honours and heritage has been transferred to new organisations on a case-by-case basis.





Soldiers from DFSW Platoon, 1RAR, fire a .50 calibre machine gun at High Range Training Area, Queensland.


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Direct Fire Support Weapons (DFSW) Platoon of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, conducted a series of weapons trials designed to prove a range of direct and indirect fire-support capabilities – and set an Australian record in the process. The main focus of the trial series was testing an EOS-R400 protected weapon station (PWS) to verify its suitability combined with the .50 cal M2HB QCB heavy machine gun, as an integrated and mounted solution for Bushmaster. The .50 cal was also assessed in the dismounted, indirect role with the validation of British and New Zealand indirect-fire tables. During this phase of the trial, DFSW Platoon, 1RAR, set an Australian record, achieving effective indirect fires with the .50 cal out to 6500m. Previous attempts by other units maxed out at 2700m before the fall of

shot could no longer be observed and adjusted. DFSW Platoon successfully conducted a section-level fire mission on a target at 6250m using armour-piercing incendiary trace ammunition. Although, only harassing fires were achieved on a company-sized defensive position, further refinement of tactics, techniques and procedures saw the beaten zone reduced significantly. The trial was seen as a huge step forward for the ADF’s DFSW capability, as the battalions push to become more closely aligned with the direct fire support currently provided by coalition nations. At the end of the .50 cal trial, a MK 19 automatic grenade launcher review was also conducted, setting conditions for a later trial, which may see the MK 19 employed on the protected weapon station.

FILM STRIP, FROM TOP: A gunner’s view of the .50 cal in action; Using a .50 cal machine gun for indirect fire support; Private Nicholas Bailey feeds a hungry beast; and, Lance Corporal James Rosengrave maintains a stockpile of ammo. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com


Australia’s newest military capability – the Amphibious Ready Element – demonstrated its abilities in waters off the north-Queensland coast from August through to October. Townsville-based 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), with MRH-90 helicopters from the 16th Aviation Brigade, combined with the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra and attending ships, as well as RAAF assets to conduct a series of amphibious training activities. The ‘Sea Series’ of exercises enabled the amphibious force to achieve ‘interim operational capability’. Commander of the Amphibious Task Force Captain Jay Bannister and commander of the landing force Colonel Michael Bassingthwaighte spoke to CONTACT via phone from the ship during the exercises...

CONTACT: Can you give us a lay-man’s overview of what the Amphibious Task Force is? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: The embarked forces on HMAS Canberra are made up of five key elements. There is the command element, which is an integrated joint staff from the Army, Navy and Air Force that supports two commanders being Captain Bannister as the commander Amphibious Task Force and myself as the commander landing force. The landing force itself has four major components – the pre-landing force, which consists of small boat platoon, recon/surveillance/snipers, maritime tactical operations element and light EWP. Then the ground combat elements, which is a scalable element. At the lowest level it is a combined-arms team based around an infantry company from 2RAR, includes a cavalry patrol from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, a JFT from 108 Battery, which is now part of the second battalion, and the normal support-company elements in there as well. Then we have the rotary-wing element. Currently embarked, we have the baseline capability of four MRH-90 Taipan helicopters from A Squadron, 5th Aviation Regiment, from Townsville. The final component is the combat support element, which holds the bulk of our logistics, including all the normal components, such as technical support with mechanics, armourers and so on, transport platoon, supply element, catering, and we have military police in there 38

doing the normal raft of military-police support tasks and we have a close health platoon from the 2nd Close Health Company of the 1st Close Health Battalion that provide us our role 1 health capability ashore. That’s also supported by a maritime operational health unit that belongs to Captain Bannister, which provides the role 2 capability in the primary care facility on the ship. So hopefully that gives you a potted rundown of the prime forces on HMAS Canberra. Of course, that is part of the broader Amphibious Task Force which normally consists of a major amphib unit such as HMAS Canberra, escort vessels such as an ANZAC-class frigate and a support ship, in this case supplied by New Zealand’s HMNZ Endeavour. Any questions? CONTACT: Yes actually. One thing that stuck out for me there was the inclusion of artillery in infantry. Is that new? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: The second battalion has now been focused on the amphibious role since 2013. At the start of 2014, the battalion was reorganised from a standard infantry battalion to an amphibious capability development organisation, which was designed around the ability to be able to generate the core elements of an amphibious ready element and that saw the inclusion in the battalion of an observer battery, which is 108 Battery of the 2nd Battalion, and a combat engineer troop – 21 Combat Engineers Troop, which is now part of the second support company in the battalion.


HMAS Canberra at anchor near Innisfail, Queensland, during Sea Series 2015. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank


A landing craft approaches HMAS Canberra‘s well dock. Photo by Coproral David Cotton

We also had more combat service support elements attached to us so that transport platoon was enhanced with Bushmaster PMVs and our tech support platoon was enhanced with more marine techs and we transitioned pioneer platoon into a small boat platoon and we’ve increased their capability and training over the past couple of years. CONTACT: Is this re-org of 2RAR a proof of the concept for the shape of other battalions or will 2RAR become the sole amphibious element? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: That is the golden question we’re striving to answer as we head towards full operating capability in 2017. The results of this exercise will inform that. The 2nd battalion will endure within the Army, but exactly what the second battalion looks like beyond 2017 is something we are currently working on as we learn from the development of this amphibious capability. 40

Lieutenant Anthony Russell checks the airway of role player Able Seaman Scott Cooke during a mass casualty exercise. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

CONTACT: Will the concept have to expand when HMAS Adelaide comes on line? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: We have the capability within the battalion to provide the core elements of a landing force to support both ships. So next year, the battalion essentially has the ability to split in two and half of the battalion will support HMAS Canberra and the other half of the battalion will support NUSHIP Adelaide, which will be HMAS Adelaide by then, in her workups next year. Then we will have the ability to come together and provide a reinforced amphibious ready element within a single ship, taking advantage of the full capacity and capability of each ship. CONTACT: Does this mean 2RAR is substantially bigger than a standard infantry battalion? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: No actually, we’re slightly smaller. A standard infantry battalion sits up around 640, and my current unit establishment is in the order of 587.

CONTACT: With all this honing and shaping, does this give you enormous influence in the future look and feel of the Army? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: [laughs loudly] Probably slightly more than a standard infantry battalion commanding officer but only because of the experience I’ve gained over the past few years. Whether that has a big impact on what the Army looks like, well I’ll let history bare that evidence. I’ve been charged with providing advice on the development of a capability and how it fits within the evolving Plan Beersheba, which continues to evolve in accordance with the Adaptive Army approach. I am fully engaged with that, as is Captain Bannister and all elements of the amphibious force in ensuring that we provide the best advice we can to inform senior leadership on the evolution of the capability.

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A soldiers guides an ASLAV onto a landing craft. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

CONTACT: The military is a big beast with a reputation for unwieldiness. Do you feel constrained or are the gloves off and you can shape things as required? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: There is of course the normal friction you would find in any large organisation, but I must say that we have achieved everything that we have set out to achieve to this point in the continuum in the development of the capability. There is significant focus within the ADF on the advantages of this capability over the next few years. I’ve been involved in this since the middle of 2011 in a concentrated way and there is good, solid, robust discussion on how the capability is to evolve, but what we are seeing on the ground today is a capability that will be a game changer for the ADF and will ultimately change the look of our ADF and take the ADF to levels of joint integration that we’ve never seen in the past. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

Soldiers from 2RAR’s Small Boat Platoon prepare for a beach insertion in HMAS Canberra’s well dock. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

CONTACT: How is working so closely with Navy and Air Force working out?

another level. And we’ve found that that is working very well for us.

Colonel Bassingthwaighte: Exceptionally well. We’ve been able to take an approach with the amphibious force that very few nations have been able to achieve. As far as I’m aware, there is only one nation that is achieving the level of integration at a headquarters level in their amphibious forces as we are, and that is the Dutch Royal Marines and the Dutch Navy. So, in the amphibious task force we have one staff that works in an integrated way to develop the plan from the very beginning – and that one staff supports both commanders, being myself and Captain Bannister. So the tactical integration of Army, Navy and Air Force is working exceptionally well.

CONTACT: Are you in contact with the Dutch or others to learn from them – or are you in a position to be able to teach lessons at this stage?

Captain Bannister: Amphibious operations by their very nature force joint integration. So it’s not surprising that the integration of staff is really pushing that to

Captain Bannister: Michael, as he’s alluded to, has been looking at amphibious warfare for quite some time and he and I have been in this game, in our current positions for a couple of years. We have a number of ex-Royal Marines who have joined our services – our Army and our Navy – so we are leveraging off their experience. And we have a US Marine Corps colonel who’s on permanent staff at the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters. The US, the British and the Dutch have all been very kind in offering us opportunities and staff to observe and in some cases embed in their staff to raise our knowledge and experience. And that was critical to us getting to where we are today. 41

Role players from a disaster evacuation centre are brought aboard HMAS Canberra via landing craft. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

CONTACT: Is it unusual that people like you are left in the same position for such a long time?

Soldiers from 2RAR conduct post-battle admin in the troop assembly area after a night raid at Bramston Beach, north Queensland. Photo by Corporal David Cotton

Colonel Bassingthwaighte: I’ll do about three years. I was posted in specifically to cover the initial period of this development. The normal command tenure in the Army is two years but there are some officers in situations such as this who are left in position in order to achieve capability development milestones, and I’m one of those.

to be across to be able to successfully and safely execute amphibious operations. History has shown – and it has been well written on by a lot of great theorists – that amphibious operations are the most complex military operations that you can undertake. And my experience over the past few years has certainly bourne testament to that fact. So, I now know a lot more about how the Navy operates, air capabilities, aviation airworthiness, sea worthiness and the safety procedures and capabilities across all the three services than I ever thought I would know before undertaking this endeavour.

CONTACT: Loking back over the past two or three years, what do you know today that you didn’t realise you needed to know back then?

CONTACT: If an old soldier or an old sailor from 1995 or even 2005 got teleported to today, would he recognise the Army or the Navy of today?

Colonel Bassingthwaighte: Hah – many – many – many things. The thing that struck me the most from my point of view was the level of detail that you need

Colonel Bassingthwaighte: I think they would be quite surprised at how far we have come in that period. If you look at the Army for example, the equipment that

Captain Bannister: No, I’ll actually only do about two and a bit years in this position.


the standard infantryman now carries compared to what it was even back in 2005 – or, if you look at what we carried in Timor. I think not long ago our standard equipment issue cost a couple of hundred dollars. And now there’s a diagram going around showing that it takes tens of thousands of dollars to equip the modern infantryman. I think that those who participated in the Sea Lion exercises back then would be completely blown away by what HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide are able to provide. CONTACT: What is the atmosphere in 2RAR these days? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: I really think everyone involved is very keen to explore the amphibious capability. We have been able to participate in some really great training, particularly this year.

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A landing craft recovers a pair of Bushmasters from Bramston Beach, north Queensland. Photo by Corporal David Cotton

If you take this year as a snapshot – in the first three months of the year we did our workups and concluded with a certification to training level five, which was a danger-close, live-fire, combat-team, combined-arms exercise, which some soldiers had never seen before in their careers, where we saw a combined-arms team conduct a live-fire advance, attack, defence and withdraw under danger-close conditions. We then supported HMAS Canberra’s workups. Concluded that and had a little bit of time off. Then we were on exercise Talisman Sabre where we formed the 2nd Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and conducted landings with the US Marines in Fog Bay in the Northern Territory – before transitioning as the 3rd Base Manoeuvre Group for the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade down in Bradshaw field training area for the conduct of live-fire exercises with the full suite of capabilities available to us. Then we came back, couple of weeks off and now Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

Corporal Benjamin Burrows, 5th Aviation Regiment, observes from the door of an MRH-90 helicopter as it approaches for landing onboard HMAS Canberra. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

we’ve been two months on HMAS Canberra conducting a broad suite of activities, going from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to conducting evacuation operations – and we’re now currently conducting security and stability operations concurrently with our HADR operations in the fictional country of Tropicana. So, you don’t get a much broader or more interesting range of roles and tasks than that within an infantry battalion. It’s a high tempo but it’s an interesting tempo, and morale in the battalion is pretty good. CONTACT: Would you say that a young digger going through Kapooka or Singleton right now would be well advised to tick 2RAR as their first posting preference? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: All the indications I’m getting right now are that 2RAR is one of the most popular battalions for people to come to, not only from Singleton, but from the Royal Military College as well.

That, combined with the fact that Townsville is now one of the most popular posting localities in Army means that I am very lucky as a commanding officer to be flush with talent wanting to come to the battalion – which is particularly useful given the complex environment we work in. CONTACT: Captain Bannister, what’s the atmosphere like from the Navy’s point of view? Captain Bannister: The progress across the maritime space has been very good and Navy is very excited about this capability, as we are about some of the other new capabilities we have coming through in the next few years. We’ve been planning for this for a number of years but from a hands-on perspective we have only got our hands on HMAS Canberra for less than 12 months now and already we are out here doing this, complex, joint, collective training activity with Army and Air Force. 43

Able Seaman Ian McGiffen (left) and Seaman Peter Pearce guide a Zodiac off the ramp of a landing craft. Photo by Corporal David Cotton

The Navy is keen to learn and is continuing on a positive growth path in understanding the capabilities of the platform and how to use it. And, importantly, because the maritime environment can be quite unforgiving, to do all that safely and getting these soldiers ashore safely, both by helicopter and by landing craft, is no mean feat – and that’s certainly one of the key focuses of what we’re doing at the moment. Over the next couple of years as we get down to integrating the ARH Tiger helicopter as well as the Chinook and start doing more complex mission sets, we’ll continue to challenge the Joint Task Force through to 2017 when we aim to take all three ships of the Amphibious Ready Group – Canberra, Adelaide and Choules, together with all their embarked forces – through another certification activity. The sailors onboard the ship have done a great job in hosting such a large number of embarked forces. With 44

Leading Seaman Frederick Foster, captains a landing craft off the coast of north Queensland. Photo by Corporal David Cotton

a crew of 400 and an embarked force of about 700, it’s really tested the ship in terms of their ability to support everything from cooking meals for all those people to getting around the ship safely. I’m very happy with where we’ve got to and very pleased to see this amphibious culture develop and grow between the forces. CONTACT: How much work do you guys have in front of you to get the big tick in the box for Final Operational capability? Captain Bannister: There’s quite a bit to go Brian. We’re very busy over the next couple of years, throughout 2016 and into 2017. We have to do similar to what we’ve done with Canberra on Adelaide to bring her up to speed next year. We have to go through first-of-class flight trials with the ARH Tiger and Chinook.

Canberra will deploy next year to RIMPAC with the ARE – that is, major elements from 2RAR and 5th Aviation Regiment – which will test our ability to sustain that capability over a number of months deployed away from Australia. That is a key part to ensuring that we understand the capability and we can project it offshore. At the same time, we’ll be learning to work with some of our partners in the region, in the Pacific, during RIMPAC, particularly the US, as we desire to achieve a level of interoperability with them. So it’s going to be pretty busy over the next couple of years and particularly pulling together a significant force with all three ships together in 2017 will be a significant challenge. That’s not just about those ships of course. Whenever we project this sort of capability, we need air and sea combat power, in testing conditions, so that we can do these operations.

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A 2nd Cavalry Regiment soldier guides an ASLAV on HMAS Canberra’s heavy vehicle deck. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

A Light Amphibious Reconnaissance Craft enters the well dock. Photo by Leading Seaman Helen Frank

We also rely heavily on the maritime combatant ships and the maritime logistics ships – and the Air Force to provide their surveillance and air-combat power in a contested environment as well. CONTACT: Any final thoughts? Colonel Bassingthwaighte: The amphibious capability is a game changer that I think will really change the face of the ADF. It gives us a level of capacity we’ve never had before and it will significantly enhance our ability to respond to evolving crises both natural and man made within our region, as well as being a major player in enhancing our alliances and building capacity in the region. It’s a great capability. We’re all really excited about it, and it’s progressing very well so far. Let me tell you, when you see something like four NRH-90s launch off the deck, and the landing craft are operating at the same time out the back – and the fact that Australia now has this capability – it really is world class. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com


...that’s 1 October 2014 at 4.11am UTC in a military date/time group – or 7.11am local

When the ‘shit got real’ for Australia’s


NOTE: The true capabilities of the MESA radar and other electronics aboard Wedgetail are classified. ‘Facts’ and figures quoted in this story were compiled from various Internet sources and were not supplied by 2 Sqn or Defence. 46

AIRCRAFT STATS 010411ZOCT14 was the exact moment that the ‘shit got real’ for callsign Magpie 01 – Australia’s E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft – as it crossed the official line that separates the air war against ISIS from the rest of the world. That first mission was supposed to be a fairly easy-paced shadowing of an American E-3 Sentry on station over the northern-Iraqi Battle Management Area (BMA), to allow the mission crew (using their own onboard callsign “Outback”) to observe how the job was done in real time before taking on any live tasking. But when the ageing E-3 developed technical problems early in its mission, the Aussies stepped up and took over – throwing themselves and Australia’s newest and most advanced warplane headlong into the fight. Back at Air Task Group Headquarters, RAAF Squadron Leader Glenn ‘Fish’ Salmon heard the call, “All stations, g’day. Outback has the BMA” – and callsign Outback began to prove itself to its coalition partners. So successful has Australia’s Wedgetail now become that stories of American strike squadrons delaying or planning missions to coincide with Wedgetail flight times have filtered back to a proud Aussie hierarchy. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Today’s success on Operation Okra was preceded by years of ridicule as a ‘project of concern’ and years of hard graft to turn the multi-billon-dollar project around. So what is Wedgetail and how does it work? Well to find out, I visited 2 Squadron at home on RAAF Base Williamtown recently – and had the extreme honour of becoming just the second journalist to fly on Wedgetail and the first to fly on an actual live training mission. And I basically found out that much of what Wedgetail and its radar is capable of runs into those areas generally covered by, ‘if I told you I’d have to shoot you’...

What I can tell you is that the E-7A Wedgetail is based on a Boeing 737-700 Basic Business Jet (the same model as the PM’s VIP flight), with a few basic modifications to accommodate the fin-like multi-role electronically scanned array (MESA) radar it carries on its back – and literally tonnes of electronic wizardry inside. Wedgetail has been a long time coming – and carries a significant weight of expectation. Australia formally announced its desire to get into airborne early warning and control – a capability it did not have previously – in 1996. Northrop Grumman was already developing the MESA radar at its own expense and talking to Boeing about a suitable platform to carry it. The ubiquitous B737 was big enough to carry Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com


110 ft 4 in (33.6m)


117 ft 2 in (35.8m)


41 ft 2 in (12.5m)

Empty weight:

102,750lb (46,606kg)


43,720lb (19,830kg)

Max takeoff weight:

171,000lb (77,564kg)


× CFM International 2 CFM56-7B27A turbofans


27,000lbf (118kN) each

Cruise speed:

530mph (853km/h)


3500nm (6482km)


10 hours without refuel

Endurance record:

6 hours 18 minutes* 1 with 2 air-to-air refuels

Service ceiling:

41,000ft (12,500m)


x pilots 2 + 10 mission specialists


EW self-protection, including directed infrared counter-measures, chaff and flares


F, VHF, UHF, Link-11, H Link-16, UHF SATCOM, ICS


*The endurance record quoted above was correct when first published in June 2015, but has since been bettered. The new record, set in November 2015, is 17.1 hours. Both record-breaking flights were on operational missions over Iraq.

the 10.8m long by 3.4m high radar ‘fin’ and all the electronics that go with it – and the B737BBJ, with its extended-range fuel tanks (and an optional air-to-air refuel capability, which RAAF opted for) was ideal. So then the RAAF came along, looking for a modern AEW&C capability that was capable enough for a physically-large country’s needs, but small enough to integrate into a relatively small air force. So, soon after the turn of the new millennium, Boeing was awarded a contract for four aircraft with an option for three more. In the end, six were acquired. The first two were assembled and tested in the USA with the final four assembled by Boeing in Australia. Aircraft deliveries to the RAAF were initially scheduled to begin in 2006, but integrating the radar

with sensor computer systems and software proved stubborn and significant program delays were encountered. Eventually, however, the first two Wedgetails were delivered to the RAAF in November 2009 – three years behind schedule – but actually remained in Boeing ownership until May 2010. The rest were progressively delivered until the sixth and final Wedgetail was handed over on 5 June 2012, with Initial Operational Capability declared in November the same year – just three short years ago. In the interim, 2 Squadron has undertaken a massive program of exercises, building up from local training missions with RAAF Williamtown-based F/A-18s , to larger domestic exercises such as Aces North and Pitch 47


A RAAF E-7A Wedgetail prepares to receive fuel from a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker during a mission over Iraq. Photo by Major General Craig Orme

Black, followed by Exercise Cope North in Guam, and eventually the much larger ‘Red Flag’ series of exercises in Nevada and Alaska. A typical Red Flag exercise involves a variety of attack, fighter and bomber aircraft (F-15E, F-16, F/A18, A-10, B-1, B-2), air superiority aircraft (F-22, F-15C), airlift support (C-130, C-17), search and rescue aircraft (HH-60, HC-130, CH-47), aerial refueling aircraft (KC130, KC-135, KC-10), command and control aircraft (E-3, E-8C, E-2C, Wedgetail), reconnaissance aircraft (Predator, Global Hawk, RC-135, U-2), electronic warfare aircraft (EC-130, EA-6B and F-16CJ), and ground-based command and control, space and cyber forces – and a full-time aggressor squadron playing enemy. Red Flag is said to be the biggest, most complex airwarfare exercise in the world and as close to fighting a real war as an exercise can get. Because of this escalating and intense program of exercises and despite its delayed introduction into RAAF service, Wedgetail and 2 Squadron were more than ready and willing when the callup for operations in Iraq was received late last year – and quick to prove the platform’s capability as a major strategic asset for Australia. Wing Commander Paul Carpenter, who commanded Australia’s first Wedgetail detachment in the Middle East, says the value of all that training struck him when 48

An Australian Wedgetail made history during the first rotation on Operation Okra when it set an impressive aviation record for the longest Australian command and control mission in a war zone – 16 hours and 18 minutes. Not to be outdone (though the effort was not a deliberate record-breaking attempt), Rotation two went even longer, clocking up 17.1 hours. The aircraft captain on the latter flight said the crew initially embarked on a fairly standard mission to survey the airspace above Iraq and Syria. “A mission of this type would normally last around 13 hours – a long time to be continuously working ,” he said. “On this occasion though, as we approached our return time and already well into the night, we were asked to continue for a few hours longer, so we took on more fuel from a Coalition air-to-air refuelling aircraft and kept flying. “It wasn’t until we landed that I realised we had hit the 17.1 hour mark – a record for an E-7A.”

one young air combat officer paused during a mission brief for an Iraq sortie and said, “Red Flag standard, really…”. “The youngest member of the crew in Iraq on that first rotation was just 22 years old and he was basically responsible for the whole northern sector of the Iraqi battlespace, talking to every fighter and tanker and doing all the organising of those assets in action,” Wing Commander Carpenter says. “The senior guys on the crew were managing the plan, but the guy actually executing that plan, the guy actually talking to the other jets was someone in his early 20s, responsible for an enormous amount of airspace and an enormous amount of hardware and capability with enormous strategic implications. “Obviously, one bomb dropped in the wrong place can have enormous political and national implications, so the personal responsibility associated with managing sensitive and critical information is really quite high.” Wing Commander Carpenter says the people the RAAF needs to recruit to get the most out of Wedgetail – and the new P-8 Poseidon in the near future – need to be adaptable and comfortable working with uncertainty – working in the grey areas. “We’re sending these young guys and girls into a very dynamic battlespace in the Middle East, a long way from home, on short notice to move, with all sorts of crazy things going on in Iraq and Syria.

“A new starter doesn’t need to know how to do the job the day he or she walks in the door, but they need a high capacity to learn and a personality to handle a lot of variables. “To get the most out of a Wedgetail, the crew is processing an enormous amount of information in a digital environment and required to recognise what’s important, filter out the crap and act on that info in very very short cycles. “There is a lot of initiative, resilience and mental capacity required – not to mention good looks.” And most of the information coming to the air combat officers on Wedgetail comes from the MESA radar, which (in general, unclassified terms) is capable of simultaneous air and sea search to a maximum range of more than 600km. Unlike a conventional rotating radar, MESA can look in any direction at any time. It can even shoot out beams of energy in multiple opposite directions – or it can concentrate its efforts in areas of interest, only returning occasionally to monitor ‘safe’ areas. It can track up to 180 targets and conduct 24 simultaneous intercepts. The aircraft also has an ESM (Electronic Support Measures) system, with a maximum range of 850km (depending on aircraft altitude), gathering location and type info on other radars as they transmit, or go quiet,

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WORK STATIONS Wedgetail’s 10 work stations are in the forward section of the aircraft, six on the port side and four to starboard. They get most of their information from the distinctive dorsalmounted radar antenna assembly, which incorporates side-emitting electronic manifold arrays in the vertical portion of the assembly and a ‘top hat’ array in the assembly’s horizontal cap. Between them, these providing 120° of radar coverage on each side of the aircraft. Other ‘top hat’ elements cover 60° fore and aft – for complete 360° coverage. Radar signal processing equipment and central computers are installed in a separate cabin area directly below the antenna array. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com



THE RADAR ESA Radar: (multi-role M electronically scanned array)

Northrop Grumman

Wide area surveillance:

more than 340,000 square miles

Scan rate:

more than 30,000 square miles per second

288 high-power transmit/receive modules operationally ready minutes after takeoff

t ypical 10-second scan rate (but, since scan rates are variable and sectors selectable, other coverage rates, ranges and priorities are programmable S ector-selection modes provide three to four times higher target search rates and eight to 10 times higher track updates than rotating radars. NOTE: The true capabilities of the MESA radar and other electronics aboard Wedgetail are classified. ‘Facts’ and figures quoted in this story were compiled from various Internet sources and were not supplied by 2 Squadron or Defence.

to build up a ‘pattern-of-life’ picture for an area. There are actually two major radar components in the fin atop the Wedgetail. Side-emitting electronic manifold arrays provide 120° of radar coverage on either side of the aircraft, while the ‘top hat array’ fills in the remaining 60 degrees fore and aft, to give a full 360 degrees of coverage. The cabin features 10 operator consoles with space for two more. But operating the Wedgetail is not all about the goodlooking aircrew. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes too. Maintenance and flightline operations are pretty obvious enabling elements of any RAAF squadron and, in this regard, while 2 Squadron have attracted a highly rated ground crew, they are also blessed with owning a new jet, based on the most common of all commercialjet platforms, which so far has given little in the way of mechanical trouble. Other enablers include operations and logistics staff – all of whom do vital work in not only getting the aircraft off the ground, but making sure that when it arrives at a new location it and its crew can function, not just for one mission or the next, but for several weeks without major inputs. This may sound simple or even like a throwaway line but, as a former aircraft mechanic, I can appreciate that literally years of planning and rehearsal and programming has obviously gone into ensuring that a jet of this size and complexity can sustainably deploy away from home for long periods. 50

Routine maintenance has to be forecast and the right spares and consumables loaded into space-critical flyaway kits. As Wing Commander Carpenter says, mission-critical spares and supply chains may not be sexy subjects for media consumption, but without a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot people, Wedgetail would be little more than a very expensive and inefficient airliner. And speaking of the media, Wing Commander Carpenter says that the secret status of much of Wedgetail’s capability – and the complexity of what it actually does – makes it difficult to engage with the media. It was nonetheless disappointing that Wedgetail didn’t get a lot of commercial media coverage out of Operation Okra. “In terms of the operation over there, the main game is obviously dropping bombs and having kinetic effects against ISIL,” he says. “So in that context, fighters are very easy to explain and understand in a short news article, and people are interested in that. Tankers too are pretty easy to understand and explain. “But AEW&C is very hard to wrap up in 50 words or less. “Do we distil it down and say we just control the airspace? I guess we could, but that doesn’t really do it justice. “But to talk about what we do and what we are capable of doing without getting into classified areas, and still tell the story of what we do is quite difficult.

“So it’s always going to be hard for us in the media space, and I guess we have to live with that.” But for Wing Commander Carpenter there are two aspects of media coverage he is happy about – in the end. “I have two news clippings from the same newspaper on my desk that relate to Wedgetail. “One, from February 2009, says ‘ $3.8billion failure – disaster – Wedgetail is not performing to specifications and likely never will’. “The other is from about the 4th of October last year, praising Wedgetail’s first operational mission in Iraq. “That was the contrast after six years of enormous effort across the whole of team Wedgetail. “That’s what we’ve achieved in just under six years – a $3.8billion project of concern transformed into a totally amazing capability that is sought after and requested by our coalition partners in the Middle East.” FOOTNOTE: Just as we wrapped up this story in May 2015, it was announced that Wedgetail had reached “Final Operational Capability” – FOC – which means, the fleet is officially fully operational and able to support ongoing operations domestically and overseas. But it’s not just the aircraft – FOC also takes into account logistics, management, sustainment, facilities and training. So, well done everyone involved.

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Come fly with me In the e-7A WORDS AND PHOTOS BRIAN HARTIGAN

Aircraft captain Squadron Leader Glenn ‘Fish’ Salmon (left) and co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Paul ‘Pip’ Pippia at the controls of an E-7A Wedgetail 001 during takeoff from RAAF Base Williamtown, near Newcastle, NSW, for an F/A-18 training-support mission.

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A pilot’s eye view of northern New South Wales through his heads-up display.

Co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Paul ‘Pip’ Pippia runs through his pre-flight checklist in the cockpit before takeoff. 52

The Boeing E-7A Wedgetail’s relatively small cockpit has just one spare seat – and even that is only a simple foldout padded slab in the doorway. Yet, being positioned in the doorway, slap bang on the centreline of the aircraft, and slightly elevated compared to the captain on the left and his co-ie on the right, it is without doubt the best visitor’s seat in the house. And I feel immensely privileged to be sitting here as E-7A Wedgetail A30-001 trundles down the taxiway for takeoff on runway three-zero at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales. Even more privileged that I am the first reporter ever allowed aboard for a live training mission with Australia’s newest and most capable intelligence platform. In the last issue of CONTACT, I outlined in some detail how the Royal Australian Air Force’s Wedgetail Early Warning and Control aircraft is the darling of the armada of air assets arranged by our coalition partners in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. This issue I want to give you a much more personal tour of this distinctive aircraft. Many of you will have seen a Boeing 737 at some stage. As the best-selling jet liner in commercial aviation history, the 737 is daily visible at just about every commuter airport in the world. If you’ve actually encountered a B737, your closest view of it may well have been through glass at an airport terminal or from the inside as a passenger, when you entered through the forward cabin door and turned right to shuffle through the crowded aisle to your allotted seat. You may even have seen the 737BBJ-based Wedgetail at Avalon or another airshow, where you could get close – ‘but no touching please’. But me – I got to climb those stairs, enter that cabin door – and then turn left into the pilots’ domain and remain in the cockpit for takeoff and, seven hours later, for the landing too. Bragging aside, here’s how it came to pass… I’ve long had an interest in Wedgetail. No doubt, it’s an unusual aircraft, especially with that rather large and distinctive radar fin on its back. But my knowledge of and interest in Wedgetail goes all the way back to 1999 when, as a rookie ARMY Newspaper reporter with a penchant for aviation, I was assigned to cover the Australian International Airshow at Avalon for ARMY Magazine and the newspaper. Project AIR5077, otherwise known as Project Wedgetail, was in the late stages of its competition phase at the time, with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing all jostling for attention in Avalon’s trade exhibition halls and keen to hand out information, pamphlets, posters and trinkets to the madding crowd. By September the same year I was able to write a short news piece announcing Boeing as the preferred tenderer, with Northrop Grumman as the radar supplier. So, I’ve always had a professional interest in Wedgetail and tried to remain sympathetic during its somewhat troubled and elongated introduction into service with the RAAF. Then, recently, an old shooting buddy from way back got in touch to say he was involved in Wedgetail support Find, like and share CONTACT Air Land & Sea on

at RAAF Base Williamtown, and asked if I’d be interested in doing a story on the platform’s recent and very successful first operational deployment. It took me a nanosecond to say yes. Anyway, cutting to the chase, I spent two days at RAAF Base Williamtown being introduced to the rightly proud workforce charged with supporting Wedgetail operations. And on the second day, I got to go flying. The day started early, with a crew brief at 0700. Squadron Leader Glenn ‘Fish’ Salmon would be our aircraft captain for the mission, with Flight Lieutenant Paul ‘Pip’ Pippia in the co-pilot’s seat – or as the mission-brief running sheet had it, “help fly/be my [the captain’s] official friend”. I was included in the official mission-brief running sheet too, at line-item number three, as PAX with an ‘official’ mission task to ‘report good things’. That wasn’t going to be hard. Following me at number four on the crew list, things got a little (read a lot) complicated for the ignorant reporter, in terms of the crew task list – though I hoped it would become clear (or at least clearer) as the mission went on. At number four, Flight Lieutenant Daniel ‘YT’ White was responsible for TPA and Dets – whatever that meant. Number five was Flight Lieutenant Jeffrey ‘Guns’ Young looking after IQ and YT, with ‘Dash’ as MC – mission commander – see, I’m learning the lingo already! At number seven was SSCO Flight Lieutenant Ryan ‘Sling’ Slinger, tasked with watching SCOs and handling external comms. Number eight was SCO1, Flying Officer Joe Noble, tasked with SPINS/ROE/something-or-other Coord/GEOs – SCO2 at nine was ‘Steph H’ with Evac2/SATCOM – SCO3, Squadron Leader Will ‘Hippy Shake’ Hipps taking care of Evac1/ Jetpack/LSIF/NOTAMS – and SCO4, ‘Dobby’ on PUBS/ATIS. At line item 12 was Flight Lieutenant Bryce ‘Robbo’ Robinson who had the curious task of CQ Slinger. Number 13 was ESMO Warrant Officer David ‘Goldy’ Goldthorpe (the only non-commissioned officer on the flight) tasked with Sniff/SAM rings. SAM rings – is that what I think it is? Yep, surface-to-air missiles. But simulated, of course, on this occasion. For no reason apparent to me, the line items skipped to number 18 – Flight Lieutenant Tim ‘Pup’ Growden (who graced the front cover of the last issue), tasked to escort me and “help ‘Robbo’ pass ‘Sling’”. So, it turns out ‘Sling’ was ‘watching the SCOs’ because he, in turn, was being watched/assessed as an instructor. Things are starting to become just a little clearer already. Not listed on the initial running sheet but along for the ride were Flight Lieutenant Ian ‘Toddy’ Todd and Flying Officer Power. After the briefing, which was pretty short and sweet and full of more acronyms than a mere mortal could consume, we were off to the life-support room where the crew were kitted out with life-support vests that include life jackets, an emergency radio, first-aid kit, a light, a whistle and so on – only not bright orange or yellow like on other 737s. These were olive drab and a little bulky and were draped over shoulders on the walk to the aircraft, removed for pre-flight checks and setup, worn properly for takeoff (and Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com


landing) and removed again when established in the cruise. And, hanging on the backs of workstation chairs, made the cabin look a lot more functional and military-businesslike than any other 737 I’ve ever been on. Of course the array of radar and computer screens and computer peripherals and outboard-facing chairs – and the absence of any windows – also made this airborne workspace quite unlike any other 737 too. Anyway, our mission for this flight was to provide airborne early warning and control for four separate waves of F/A18 ‘Classic’ Hornets conducting a component of a Fighter Combat Instructor Course. Within about 40 minutes of takeoff we were leveled out at 30,000 feet, engines cut back to 89% power to maintain our 250-knot cruise speed, and set up and ready on station. “So, it’s pretty much ‘hurry up and wait’ now until the fighters turn up – then it’ll be on like Donkey Kong down the back,” Fish said, just before accepting an offer of coffee from Goldy – “white with one, thanks mate”.

Each wave of fighters would see four blue-force Hornets (the good guys) trying to infiltrate enemy territory and engage a ground-based target, without getting shot down by four red-force (enemy) planes or three simulated surface-to-air missile emplacements (I bet the mayors and citizens of Moree, Narribri and Inverell didn’t know they were such a threat to the RAAF). The good guys, of course, had Wedgetail on their side to help them avoid the hazards – on the way in and the way out. All this took part in what is known as the North-West NSW Restricted Airspace – an almost circular chunk of sky west of Glenn Innes, north of Tamworth, and north and west past Moree and Narrabri. It was almost an hour after our own takeoff that the first wave of jets entered the airspace, via the Hunter Corridor – a designated corridor of airspace between restricted zones around Newcastle Airport/RAAF Base Williamtown. 53

Maintenance crew begin after-flight checks, services and repairs after a seven-hour flight.

I’m not sure how long the mission took – or even how well the good guys won (because the good guys always win, especially with Wedgetail’s guidance) – because I was very intent on trying to figure out what I was actually looking at on the various screens. It seemed I was looking at six or even eight very different views of the same battlespace across the 10 screens, depending on the various tasks of each individual crewmember. Plugged into a headset, I could hear calm, concise and rapid instructions and acknowledgements – without understanding a damn thing that was said. I listened for it, but not once did I hear, “Yeeha, Jester’s dead”. Seriously though, here’s something for you to think about – how does an operator on an airborne early warning and control aircraft tell the good guys where the bad guys are and which direction they are flying in? That’s not a stupid question if you think about it. Not only are the good guys and the bad guys constantly moving – and at high speed – but so is the observer’s 54

point of view because the Wedgetail is constantly moving too. What’s needed is a fixed reference point – a point on the map everyone knows and can take bearings to and from. And so the controller gives the good guys their instructions, directions and bearings as if he were sitting at a desk at that fixed point on the map. And all those instructions must be delivered very quickly. Hence, my ignorance of what was being said, because it was all in aviator code and abbreviations. Appropriately, this fixed point on the map is called the Bullseye. I won’t try to explain it, but if you are interested, you can get a good overview in this game-based tutorial on how Bullseye works. Bullseye works pretty simply when you are in relatively familiar airspace with relatively few moving parts. But like all training elements, once you’ve got a handle on it here, the same concept can be used for real

in the much-more-complex big fight – like in Iraq right now. Anyway, by the time the second wave of jets came through, it was getting more interesting to watch on the screen. Not only was I getting a little more in tune with what was happening, but this wave seemed to be actually teasing the SAM sites, darting in and out of the danger zones in a bold, seemingly deliberate way. I was sure Maverick and Goose were in this flight. After the second wave, word started to come through that maybe the Wedgetail wasn’t needed for the next two sorties. Apparently there was a group of new joint terminal attack controllers getting close to the end of their own course and the opportunity for them to handle live jets was too good to pass up. While we waited for a decision, Steph H whipped up a round of triple-deck toasted sandwiches for everyone, while Goldy took care of the coffees. It took a while, but eventually, the Wedgetail was officially released from task. Whispers of an early mark drifted about the cabin. Up front, however, Fish pronounced, “No. We haven’t hit Joker yet” – which, I learnt, means the plane was actually too heavy to land. ‘Joker’ I learn, is a pre-flight planning-stage calculation of the earliest time we can land based on the fuel we took off with, unless we dumped some overboard. And, by the way, ‘Bingo’ is the calculated latest time we can land without refueling – about three hours after Joker. When the mission was cut short, we still had 18.9 tonnes of fuel on board and on Fish’s notepad ‘Joker’ was still 3.5 hours away. So, apparently, when your mission is cut short and you’ve got 3.5 hours to Joker time, the mission commander, in consultation with the captain, calculates alternative activities to kill time and burn fuel without wasting the opportunity to deliver some extra, unscheduled training options for the rest of the flight. Tasmania was talked about – and the Gold Coast – but in the end, an instrument-approach to Coffs Harbour, without touching down, was agreed. While this was obviously a good pilot-training option, time was not wasted down the back either. The pilots nominated a time and each screen operator marked a place on the aircraft’s predicted track where they calculated the aircraft should be at that time. Then, one by one, best-guess plots, visible on every screen, turned red as the point marked was overflown, until there was just one left – and Steph H was hailed the winner. Any new destination at this point, picturesque as it might be, meant little to those in the back of the Wedgetail. I mentioned windows earlier – or the lack of them in the work space. Well, beyond the working cabin with its computer and radar screens and non-natural lighting, there’s a small airline-style galley and beyond that a ‘crew rest area’ with four standard airliner windows on each side. But, while they do let a nice bit of sunlight in, the view out is actually rubbish thanks to a metal Faraday cage designed to keep the radar’s ergatrons out. This crew rest area boasts business-class seats and lots of legroom – but the vinyl floor covering ruins any semblance

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of luxury. There are no airline-style overhead lockers either, but there are a few cupboard-like storage spaces of the type normally only accessed by airline staff. That said, however, and despite the size of the plane, there’s apparently only enough space for each crew member to take about an echbag of personal gear onboard, which means logistics support is required for extended away-from-home exercises or deployments. Staying in the crew rest area for a while, I’ll mention the military-grade full-face oxygen masks everywhere. These are required because of all the military-grade inert-gas fire extinguishers about the place – in turn required because of all the sensitive electronics. These weren’t used on my flight of course, but a fire drill was conducted. I happened to be in the cockpit when the “for practice, practice, practice” emergency was announced through the headset and the crew’s non-normal fire/fumes checklist was invoked. While the crew down the back went through set routines to isolate the source of the smoke, we in the cockpit closed the door, isolated our air supply and began working through the series of prescribed checks and actions required for dealing with this specific emergency. One lesson learnt out of this, which was discussed in debrief post flight, was that despite being almost overhead Tamworth when the ‘emergency’ arose, and with his plane supposedly on fire, Fish still set course for landing back at Williamtown. The reason for this, as the captain explained to everyone later, was that to land at Tamworth would have required a tricky and acute spiraling decent, whereas the straight-line decent to Williamtown was more easily achieve. “An airplane can go down or slow down, but we can’t do both,” Fish said. “Our descent path from 30,000 feet is about 90 miles, so it’s actually much harder to spiral down to an airfield below us than to b-line for home.” Anyway, for the eventual real approach to home base at Williamtown, I was back in the cockpit soaking in the view, the atmosphere and the banter. Pip’s house was pointed out as we flew abeam one of the many picturesque coastal hamlets. The pros and cons (mostly pros) of the Newcastle lifestyle were discussed – and the fact that 2 Squadron is a very sought-after posting because of all the trips it does, domestically and overseas, thanks to Wedgetail’s growing reputation as a ‘must-have’ rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ in the battlespace. Eventually, towards the bottom of our 90-mile glidepath, and with engines cut back to 32%, Pip took us all the way in to what I thought was a pretty smooth landing. But, as is the way with many professional pilots, Pip, in self-critique mode, said it could have been better, and the technicalities were discussed and analysed as we rolled back along the taxiway, and eventually marshaled to a halt on 2 Squadron’s capacious concrete apron. “That’ll be a 7.0 hours for your log books ladies and gents.” After disembarking and reporting technical issues to the maintainers, the aircrew debriefed another safe mission and another good day in the ‘office’, before dismissing the reporter, trusting that his mission – to report good things – would also be successful. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

A maintenance technician conducts after-flight inspections.



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NARC O BATTLES Photos by Lieutenant Andrew Colebourn (main) and Leading Seaman Brenton Freind

Australian and New Zealand frigates operating in the Middle East region seized almost a tonne of narcotics worth an estimated street value of $711 million in June 2015. Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Newcastle netted 724kg of narcotics worth an estimated $597 million. During the same operation, New Zealand ship HMNZS Te Kaha made two seizures totalling 257kg worth an estimated NZ$235 million. A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion played a cruical part in the second New Zealand find. Both warships were patrolling separately as part of the Combined Maritime Forces, Combined Task Force -150. All but small samples of the drugs seized were destroyed and the samples transferred to appropriate law enforcement agencies as evidence and for further testing. HMAS Newcastle’s Commanding Officer Commander Dominic MacNamara said narcotics seizures denied a key source of funding to terrorist organisations.


NOBLE JUMP EXERCISE NOBLE JUMP occurred in April and June 2015 and was designed to refine NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy troops at short notice across the Alliance. Part one in April was an ‘Alert Exercise’ that focused on rapid movement of troops and supplies. In June, a ‘Deploy Exercise’, saw troops from NATO’s Interim Very High Readiness Joint Task Force tested on its ability to deploy and respond to an evolving crisis.


A NATO Response Force (NRF) was established in 2003 as a high-readiness force comprising land, air, sea and special forces units capable of rapid deployment. At a summit in Wales in 2014, NATO agreed to enhance the capabilities of the NRF in order to respond to emerging security challenges posed by Russia as well as the risks emanating from the Middle East and North Africa. This force is now in transition as military staff work to phase in the concept of a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) into the overall NRF structure. The NRF is designed to perform a wide variety of tasks including: - immediate collective defence response capability, before the arrival of other forces; - crisis management and peace support operations; and, - disaster relief and the protection of critical infrastructure. Overall command of this force belongs to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), with NATO’s two Joint Force Commands (based in Brunssum, The 58

Netherlands and Naples, Italy) having operational command of the NRF each year on rotation. Rotating forces through the NRF requires contributing Allies and partner nations to meet significant procedures and standards required for defensive and expeditionary operations. As a result, participation in the NRF is preceded by a six-month NATO exercise program in order to integrate and standardise the various national contingents. Generally, nations carry out a further pre-training period of 6 to 18 months before assuming the role of an NRF high-readiness unit.

Enhancing NRF and Developing VJ TF

In order to adapt to emerging security challenges on NATO’s eastern and southern flanks, the Alliance is enhancing the NATO Response Force into a highly flexible and capable 30,000-strong joint force, which will include a number of land, maritime, air, and special forces packages that can move at short notice in order to rapidly respond to threats. As part of restructuring the NRF, NATO is also establishing a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which can deploy within days. VJTF will comprise a multi-national brigade of approximately 5000 troops, with up to five battalions, supported by air, maritime and special forces. Some elements will be ready to move within two to three days. The force will be available to move at the first warnings and indicators of potential threats, before a crisis begins, and to act as a potential deterrent to further escalation. NATO says the rapid arrival of this small but capable military unit would send a very clear message to any potential aggressor. “Any attempt to violate the sovereignty of one NATO nation will result in a decisive military engagement with all 28 allied nations,” a spokesman said. The VJTF’s rapid response times are what set it apart from other components of the NRF.


Rapid deployment of the VJTF will be facilitated by small command and control and reception facilities called NATO Force Integration Units (NFIU). As an initial step, NFIUs are being established in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, and will be staffed on a rotational basis. NFIU’s will work in conjunction with host nations to identify logistical networks, transportation nodes and supporting infrastructure to ensure NATO high-readiness forces can deploy into an assigned region as quickly as possible. With the help of NFIUs, some units of the VJTF will be capable of moving in just two days, with most ready to move in less than seven.

VJTF Development

Work on developing and testing the VJTF concept has already begun. The Land Component of the ‘traditional’ NRF 2015 is now acting as an Interim VJTF and is the basis for VJTF development. Troops for NRF 2015 are provided by Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and other nations. Maritime and air elements will be provided by the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Belgium amongst others. A series of exercises, trials, and evaluations will be conducted throughout 2015 in order to develop, refine and implement this concept, including: • Table-top exercises occurred in January and February 2015, which refined the overarching military concepts that will underpin the VJTF; • Exercise NOBLE JUMP occurred in April and June and refined NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy troops at short notice across the Alliance. Part one in April was an ‘Alert Exercise’ that focused on rapid movement of troops and supplies. In June, part two of Exercise NOBLE JUMP – a ‘Deploy Exercise’ – saw troops from the Interim VJTF tested on their ability to deploy and respond to an evolving crisis; and, Find, like and share CONTACT Air Land & Sea on

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• Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE in October, as well as in other exercises later in the year, will refine the VJTF concept. The development of the VJTF is a process that is expected to continue as the Alliance refines its concepts and capabilities over the next few years. NATO has high-readiness forces in place now, and these forces will increasingly adopt and refine the VJTF concept during 2015. This evolution will continue into 2016 as NATO moves towards a more mature capability and continues to adapt to future threats.

NRF New Structure

With the introduction of the VJTF concept, the NRF will comprise four parts: • Command and Control element, based on a deployable Joint Task Force HQ; • Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) – the new component of the NRF, consisting of forces at the highest level of readiness; • Initial Follow On Forces Group (IFFG) – high-readiness forces that can deploy quickly following the VJTF, in response to a crisis; and, • Response Forces Pool (RFP) – NATO will retain the same broad spectrum of military capabilities that it did in the previous NRF structure.

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Assets Assigned to NRF Command and Control: Joint Force Command Naples is the lead headquarters for the NRF in 2015, and is supported by the following command and control elements: • Land: First German/Netherlands Corps (Münster, Germany); • Air: Joint Force Air Component HQ (Lyon, France); • Maritime: Spanish Maritime Force Command (Rota, Spain); • Special Operations: Polish Special Operations Command (Krakow, Poland); • Joint Logistic Support Group from JFC Naples (Naples, Italy); and, • German Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Task Force. Combat Forces: Air, land, maritime, special forces, and logistics troops from across the Alliance have been placed on a high level of readiness and are available to support NRF 2015 if required. Details on the exact composition and disposition of these forces is secret, but it is known that 25 Allies currently contribute military forces to NRF 2015.


power Show Words and photos Sergeant Brian Hartigan

Diggers at the Puckapunyal Military Area in Victoria got to show off the power and might of a combined-arms combat team attack on October 15-16 to packed galleries of spectators. Exercise Chong Ju is an annual firepower demonstration and a key component of the Army’s Combat Officer’s Advanced Course (COAC) at the Combined Arms Training Centre (CATC). COAC provides future Army leaders with tactical and technical training in the employment of weapons and support systems and Chong Ju, as part of their course, gave them a close-up taste of the tactics and firepower that can be brought to bear in a combined-arms environment. Incorporating many elements of the ADF’s impressive arsenal, Chong Ju included armour, artillery, engineer and infantry elements, as well as air-to-ground attack by Tiger ARHs and F/A-18 fighter jets. Other capabilities showcased at Chong Ju included M1A1 Abrams, ASLAV, M113AS4, 81mm mortar, M777 155mm artillery and Javelin anti-armour missile. 62

While most of the action was directed at a notional enemy emplacement more than 2km away, many elements of the combined-arms attack were positioned close to spectators, in some cases literally giving all a taste of the action as the main-gun shock wave from an M1A1 Abrams tank kicked up clouds of dust at very close range. Commandant CATC Colonel Anthony McIntyre said the exercise was essential for training the Army’s next generation of commanders. “Chong Ju is an excellent opportunity for young officers and soldiers to see first-hand how all the ADF systems work in unison, in a potential operational scenario,” Colonel McIntyre said. The exercise is named after a battle in North Korea in 1950 when 3RAR, supported by tanks and artillery, attacked and captured a large North Korean defensive line on the Yalu River. The annual exercise is run by the School of Armour with support from the School of Artillery and elements of 4 Brigade at CATC.

Aerial support was provided by 16 Aviation Brigade and the Royal Australian Air Force. To gain maximum value from Exercise Chong Ju, a wide range of other spectators were also invited, including prospective new recruits and participants in a Defence Indigenous Development Program (DIDP). Crystal Carter, a participant in the DIDP, enjoyed the experience, which she said would go a long way to help her decide if she would like to pursue a military career. Tamara Downey, who is going through the Defence Force Recruiting process and hoping to be commissioned as an education officer, was another impressed spectator. She said the exercise gave her an excellent appreciation of the professionalism of the Army. “It was very impressive from a power point of view, but, as someone who is still going through the recruitment process, I think the overall impression I got was that the Army is highly professional,” she said. “I’ve been getting that impression throughout the process, but today really reinforced that for me.”

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CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: An An Australian Light-Armoured Vehicle fires its 25mm gun; A Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter fires its chin-mounted 30mm gun; soldiers fire a Javelin anti-armour missile; An M1A1 Abrams tank gives the audience a close-encounter of the loud kind.

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Photo by Able Seaman Kayla Hayes

Lieutenant Scott Gutterson watches HMAS Sirius conduct a replenishment at sea with HMAS Arunta from an S70-B Seahawk helicopter during a transit home to Australia across the Java Sea after taking part in a North East Asia deployment. HMAS Stuart was being replenished at the same time, just out of view.


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Photo by Corporal Steve Buckley RAF

The Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew with Vulcan bomber XH558 for the final time at the Southport Air Show on Saturday 19 September with their V formation the undoubted highlight of the show. XH558 was the last airworthy example of the UK’s Cold War bomber and 2015 was the delta-winged aircraft’s final flying season.

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Hundreds of men, women and children gathered in Darwin on 19 February to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of their city by Japaneese forces in 1942. Members of the 8th/12th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, marked the anniversary by re-enacting defence measures used to defend the city, dressed in period ‘uniforms’. Representing the fewer-than two-dozen Australian anti-aircraft guns available on the day 188 Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin,


three 8th/12th Regiment M2A2 ceremonial guns ‘returned fire’. The Japanese attack used high-altitude Kate bombers, Val dive bombers and Zero fighters, launched from four aircraft carriers and their battle group located in the Timor Sea. In all, 235 people on the ground were killed, with a further 400 wounded – with 131 of the casualties being US servicemen. Eleven ships were sunk in the attack, including the destroyer USS Peary, with the loss of 88 souls.

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CAPTAIN WALES Captain Harry Wales spent a high tempo month with the Australian Army in the leadup to his retirement from the British Army. While in Australia, the Prince’s program included participating in the day-to-day activities of soldiering, including physical training sessions, sport (including wheelchair AFL), preparing for field exercises and learning Aussie bush survival skills. He also participated in high-end warfighting activities such as patrolliing, urban assault, boarding parties, rapelling from helicopters and even flying a Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. He also accompanied the military contingent at the Dawn Service at Gallipoli, before returning to Australia for more military exercises. A high-profile advocate for wounded warriors, the Prince also met with some of the Army’s wounded, injured and ill members, at the 1st Brigade Soldier Recovery Centre.

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While on duty with NORFORCE, Captain Wales met with locals of the Wuggubun community in the Kununurra region of Western Australia, around 470km south-west of Darwin, and spent time engaging with elders and children of the Indigenous community. Captain Wales was also briefed on NORFORCE’s operations and trained in bush survival skills, including how to source food and water. After receiving his orders, Captain Wales headed out on patrol with members of NORFORCE, spending two nights camping out in the remote Kununurra region. During the month-long secondment, Captain Wales spent time with Australian Army units in Darwin, Perth and Sydney, before travelling to New Zealand for a week-long official visit that also included military activities.





The author, Jason Semple

Iraq 2006


Acting range instructor, Iraq 2006

Aerial gunnery overseas, 2010


t’s 10.45pm on the 27th of February 1998. It’s a warm evening and looks like rain. But I am not worried about the weather. I am worried about the two stab wounds I have in my chest and abdomen. Even though I am pressing my hands on the wounds, I can feel a river of blood escaping. My only other first aid option is to try and keep calm and not panic, but that’s hard work! I am in Ultimo, Sydney. I’ve been in the NSW Police Force (or Service back then) for exactly two weeks and I am lying in the gutter completely sure of my impending death. A courageous police officer, Pete Forsyth, is lying on top of me, but he has already died from his wounds. He suffered two fatal stab wounds to his heart, but before succumbing, he was in the process of giving me first aid. He was a proper hero to the very end. Unfortunately Pete would not be the last mate lost in the line of duty, with four more killed in the years to come. Against all odds, I survived. “Never give up” as they say. From that night onwards I promised myself I would take every opportunity to improve myself in life and take on every challenge I could. I had to make it count. I owed it to Pete, to myself and to those who worked so hard to save my life. The result, 17 years later, is a life spent in Specialist Police Tactical Operations in two Australian police organisations – the NSW Tactical Operations Unit (TOU) and the AFP’s Operational Response Group (ORG). Between the TOU and AFP I enjoyed a period of private contracting for companies representing the US DoD and am currently employed as a specialist advisor/mentor in the Middle East. In this article and others to follow I will try to articulate a little about me, and share what has driven me to where I am today. I look forward to sharing my experiences and the inner sanctum of the group of specialists I worked with who push themselves in everything they do. The road I have travelled has been one I would not trade for any other. I have met some of the finest men and women in policing and military circles, as well as certain other agencies closely aligned – men and women who decided their calling was to protect their countrymen, both domestically and

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abroad. Brave men and women, some of whom paid the ultimate price for their life choice. During my professional life I was lucky to have met and worked with such a broad cross-section of brave people from all over, each having an impact on who I am today. They are Australians, Americans, Emiratis, Pommies, Philippinos, Solomon Islanders, Timorese, Iraqis, Afghanis, Somalis – all with different cultural beliefs and values, but all aiming at the same collective goal of peace and security. Whether you serve in the military or police the ethos is very much the same. You want to protect those who cannot protect themselves, domestically and overseas. You want to bring justice or penalty against individuals who prey on those who prey on others. The methods and delivery of this intent may differ, but the endgame is a shared one. The Green Beret motto sums it up nicely. ‘De Oppresso Liber’ – ‘To Liberate from Oppression’. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

In this article I hope to connect with you and share the commonality I have with you as a reader of CONTACT magazine. Why write articles for this magazine? What are my motives for reaching out to you as a reader? Over a number of articles I hope to accurately and informatively share the world of police tactical group snipers, and touch on topics related to this field of endeavor. But I want to make one thing clear – I am not special and I do not write these articles to beat my chest. I write to share with you the work of some talented and dedicated people who have been working to keep all our families safe from harm. I am merely one of these guys and would have been ineffective without my team by my side. I would like to respectfully show how much the sniping skillset has evolved, especially over the preceding 10 years. There has been a quantum leap in sniping like

never before in history. The leaps we have seen in ballistic software, our understanding of the contributing factors of internal and external ballistics and the equipment at hand is remarkable. A good sniper now is literally a ballistician and physics guru. We know exponentially more now than we did even in the early millennium. It’s my goal to share some insights on that progression. This quantum leap came about with technology and also due to the fact that sniping is a brotherhood where we as specialists coexist and share our knowledge with other snipers to progress the skillset as a whole. The level of acceptance and camaraderie between snipers from different military, police and other agencies creates a powerful synergy. I intend to share some of this synergy. In my next article I will examine the evolution of PTG sniping that I was exposed to during my tenure in the two separate police tactical teams and some of the key people who allowed us to progress to the levels we did.


Helicopter fire support

Fire tower CBRN training

For now I’ll explain a little about the two PTG units I worked for and the type of work these units conduct on a daily basis, to give you some background on my training and experience. Even though I did many deployments overseas with the AFP, the backbone of my tactical experience came from the constant high-risk policing with the Tactical Operations Unit, State Protection Group, NSW Police. The State Protection Group was established in 1991 to deal with a wide range of extraordinary policing responses to situations, which are beyond the scope, or capacity, of police generally. SPG directly support operational police in high-risk incidents such as sieges with a specialist tactical, negotiation, intelligence and command-support service. The command also provides support with rescue and bomb-disposal operations, operations requiring the services of the Dog Unit. The SPG is also responsible


Original sniper course

Jason Semple is a firearms trainer on the following weapons: • Beretta 92F • Sig Sauer 226 • H&K USP • Glock pistols He is also a specialist weapons instructor on the following weapons: • M4/M16 • Glock 17, 19, 22, 26 pistols, • Remington 870P shotgun • 40mm grenade launcher • Accuracy International .308 and .50 • Remington 700 • Blaser .308/.338 • H&K MP5/SD6/KA1 machine gun • Knights Armament SR25/M110 .308 • AMD • AK-47 • RPK • PKM • Minimi • Maximi • Mag58

Counter-terrorism door-breach training

for the delivery and maintenance of the Police Service firearms capability through the Police Armory. The core responsibilities I had as an operator in the TOU SPG were; provide a police tactical group counterterrorist-response capability in accordance with the Australian National Anti-Terrorist Plan; conduct site appreciation/surveys and tactical reconnaissance; daily domestic duties including providing a 24-hour response capability to the New South Wales Police, in resolving high-risk incidents across the State; hostage rescue; arrest of armed and dangerous offenders; protection of undercover agents/intelligence-agency personnel; witness protection and escort; high-risk vehicle intercepts; VIP protection/escorts, counterassault and counter-sniper team; suicide intervention; high-risk search-warrant assist; escort of high-risk prisoners; siege resolution; operational support for major law-enforcement operations; navigation and specialised rural operations; hostage survival and evacuation

plans; sniper/counter-sniper duties including hostage reception duties; and, remote-area first-aid and casualty evacuation. As you can see there was a high expectation on our members to have high levels of skills in a number or areas. The unit was involved in hundreds of operations per year, which provided its members with a rich pool of experiences. To enable myself and my fellow operators to do the work expected of us, we were given extensive training in a number of skills and tactics. Listed below are many of the qualifications I gained in the past 15 years, provided by both the TOU and ORG; Command and Control Course C3 Australian Federal Police; Diploma of Policing (Charles Sturt University); OST Instructors’ Course/Special Weapons Instructor course; Instructor Rural Surveillance Program Philippines (jungle warfare and operations management); Combat Tracking/Tactical Tracker

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Rob Maylor, Mike Brookes-Jones, the author Jason Semple and Daniel Keighran VC, in 2015.

CONTACT is delighted to have Jason Semple on board for what promises to be a very enlightening series of articles. This is part one of an ongoing series.

Course level 1 and 2; senior sniper/counter-sniper instructor; breaching instructor; explosives user/shot firer qualification/diploma (commercial licence); Image Capture and Transfer Instructor courses; international deployment/pre-deployment training; remote-area first aid; Early Trauma Management Course; AFP Operational Safety Trainer Instructors’ Course/special weapons instructor; Federal Agent Lateral Program; NSW High Risk Police Driving Course; Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment/Train Small Groups; National Counter-Terrorist Committee Skills Enhancement Course, sniper, sniper team leader; firearms trainer; Helicopter Operations and Insertion Course; airborne rappelling, fast roping and winch rescue; Senior First Aid (Level 2) St John Ambulance Australia; Certificate in Laser Safety, Laser Safety Officer class 2; Blaser Long-Range Sniper Course; Aerial Gunnery Course; HUET (helicopter underwater escape training); SE400 CBR Course (chemical, biological,

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radiation); Water Operations Counter-Terrorist Course; Aircraft Operations Counter-Terrorist Course; Method of Entry Course – mechanical, manual and dynamic; NSWP Tactical Operations Operators Course CT; and, National Counter-Terrorist Committee Explosive Breaching Course. After a number of years with the TOU, I resigned and undertook private contracting work in Iraq training Iraqi Special Police Commando’s in north Baghdad until returning to Australia in early 2007. I returned to undertake duties with the AFP and its new tactical unit. There I would ultimately be responsible for building its sniper team alongside an exSAS member who had also come on board. In 2006 the Australian Federal Police formed a tactical group that could provide assistance both domestically and internationally to AFP operations and the protection of government assets and personnel abroad. It was initially made up of current and ex members of nearly

every police tactical team across Australia, bringing with them an awesome cross-section of skills and experience. This group was called the Operational Response Group, and was placed at the disposal of National AFP investigational teams and the International Deployment Group (IDG). The Operational Response Group was AFP’s permanent specialist tactical and stability policing capability, able to rapidly respond to civil disorder and international crisis, both nationally and internationally, within 24 hours. The Operational Response Group was defined as a police tactical group within the National CounterTerrorism Committee arrangements, providing the Commonwealth of Australia an offshore specialist and tactical policing response capability. The unit provided similar capabilities to the AFP’s Specialist Response and Security Team but focused


Counter-terrorism sniper training.

on national and international deployments outside of the Australian Capital Territory, where the SRS had responsibility. The ORG was created to enhance the operational policing capabilities of the AFP’s International Deployment Group (IDG) operating predominantly in the Pacific region. ORG provided the AFP with a specialist tactical policing capability which included; effect high-risk searches, search warrants and arrests; support to publicorder policing; remote rural patrols; protection of people in high-risk situations; support to the security of members deployed to missions such as RAMSI; advanced training in specialist weaponry and less-lethal capabilities; rapid response for containment of civil disorder and restoration of order; tactical negotiations, communications and marine-operations support; remote and covert surveillance; prison-riot response; and, major civildisorder interventions, and capacity building in other


specialist police units overseas (such as Solomon Islands and Philippines). My role in the ORG was as a senior sniper in the Marksman Reconnaissance Team (MRT). As I said earlier, myself and another federal agent (ex-SAS) were tasked with building this team from scratch. We built it all right, with some exceptional men and the best weapons and equipment money could buy. The AFP allowed us to create a sniper team that was cutting edge and extremely well trained. I will always be grateful for the support and foresight of certain senior AFP officers who allowed us to get on with creating something unique. I will also be grateful to have worked with teammates who were genuine innovators and guys I will always respect and admire. If we didn’t know a skill, we would hunt down the most proficient expert and get them to come and train us. Guys like Glen Roberts of WA TRG in long-range shooting, expert tactical trackers like David Scott

Donelan and a host of other renowned experts in their fields. I will talk further about these guys in future articles. Our expanded roles required the use of all the skillsets we had developed over our careers. We had an excellent and valued relationship with Australian Special Forces both from the east and west of Australia. We would not have many of the skills without that help from our military brothers and we will always be grateful and in their debt. I am hoping these guys knew we were there to protect their families, while they deployed overseas to ultimately protect us all. Our domestic and overseas work required a new level of tactical application. Fast roping/rappelling into jungle locations, swim-up assaults through crocodile- and shark-infested waters, horrendous jungle stomps, long-term jungle observation posts, continuous close-target reconnaissance tasks in hostile and inhospitable environments. We often found ourselves coming out of jungle operations and rolling straight into urban counterterrorist and major criminal operations in Australia’s capital cities. This required experienced members to make these transitions quickly and effectively. It also required a level of maturity, as you could be sneaking into a village under NVGs one day, and 48 hrs later you were in the Melbourne CBD on another, highly visible task. During later articles I will describe what it was like and some of the ordeals we faced during these operations. I will be restricted on some information due to the Commonwealth Secrecy Act, but I will be able to explain some skills and personal experiences. I will also write articles on the latest weapons, equipment, ammunition and specific sniper training. I will provide expert testimonials by fellow Australians in the industry and also American and British Special Forces I have worked with. I will do my best to accurately portray the work and the type of men who actually conducted the operations. I will try to capture the human side as well, – the humor, the personal sacrifice, and the pain that came with both arduous activities and the injuries we sustained on the job. I look forward to sharing all this with you as the reader and for you to get an insight into our world.

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Shooting from the rear of vehicle, the spotter being careful not to disturb the shooter.

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What has changed over the past 10 or so years that allows us to consistently outshoot the manufacturers stated accuracy for their rifles? What was the turning point in our profession that has allowed us unparalleled long-range shooting abilities?


rest my cheek against the smooth fibre reinforced polymer stock. I need my cheek to weld with the stock, no gaps, no pressure, no strain anywhere. Cheek and rifle stock need to become one. A thousand times I have sought this weld and now instinct ensures I get the bond I need. My right eye is now naturally in line with my optics, 10 specialised German lenses collaborating to provide me untold ocular assistance out to extended ranges. The government has supplied me the best and now I need to use it to its maximum capability. The stock extension and scope placement ensures my eye relief is correct and exactly the same every time. My left eye squints closed with little effort. I rotate the elevation drum to compensate for the distance to the selected target. I feel the graduations via a slight clicking sensation made by internal mechanisms. Got to love German engineering! No need to come off my weld and look at the drum. I know this rifle. It is part of me. I slowly rotate my azimuth drum to compensate for the calculated spindrift. I’ll use my MSR reticle to compensate for wind. I prefer this hold-off method as the wind is too unpredictable. The reticle looks crisp and clean after a slight turn of the diopter. I deliberately rotate my parallax drum to the infinity setting. My support arm is bent 120 degrees with my left hand under my right shoulder griping the spigot in my rifle stock. My fingers adjust the spike for some minute adjustments to my point of aim (POA). The forward end of the weapon is stable and pushing firmly into the Atlas bipod attached underneath. Without breaking position I slide the straight action rearward. The bolt carrier slides effortlessly over the top of the $23 Swiss-P 196gn AP round that is waiting patiently at the top of the magazine. As the bolt head clears the length of the cartridge the magazine spring ensures the round is now sitting exposed and ready to be collected as I push the straight action forward. The round glides along the first part of its intended journey into the chamber of the cold-hammer-forged barrel. 75

A makeshift shooting line deep in Queensland bush.

The 360-degree radial collets expand into the barrel’s locking groove ensuring it is firmly locked in battery. The auto-centring bolt head has now sealed the end of the barrel, prepared to ensure the pending chamber pressure of around 62,000 pounds per square inch will aid the travel of the round in only one direction. Soon the marriage of brass and projectile will be no more. My right hand returns to the grip and my pointer finger deftly comes in contact with the crisp edges of the single-stage trigger. The scope picture remains good, the target is as clear as it can be at this range, through the mirage. I’m relaxed, my body remains welded to the ground using as little muscular assistance as I can to support the gun. My right hand has a firm grasp of the moulded pistol grip, enough to control the weapon during shot release but not overly tight to cause barrel movement during the firing sequence. A slight gap between my trigger finger and the pistol grip avoids any frame drag. I’m ready. So close to my right side that he is almost touching me, and maybe a little more than a metre offset behind my gun is my spotter, Ray. The spotter’s input is what makes sniping at long range accurate and effective, two snipers complimenting each other to produce one outcome. Ray has established his own weld with the ground and is watching through high-end spotting optics, fitted with the same reticle as my scope.


Author Jason Semple shooting in Queensland bush.

“Shooter ready. On target,” I say. ”Spotter on target, wind is slight, from 10 o’clock maybe 3 or 4km/hr” I adjust left for the breeze with my reticle maybe 0.7 mils. I’m content at this point – because snipers don’t get happy – that I kept the 5-25x56mm scope at 14 times magnification as I can readily see an increasing mirage swirling upward to about 2 o’clock. “Roger, got tone” (an intimate nod to my spotter’s infatuation with Top Gun). “Send it,” Ray responds. I take some decent full breaths, in and out, in and out, in and out, yet mindful not to over oxygenate the system. I suck in my last breath. A little over halfway through my exhale, I gently pause, knowing I have a little time to steady my internal system, which is now in O2 credit. The clock is ticking. The reticle is hovering where it should, the rifle feels natural and supported underneath me, my finger takes up pressure on the trigger in a controlled rearward direction. I feel the 2.8 pounds of pressure start to give as my finger continues to press rearwards. I am close to shot release. I know this rifle, we have been here before many many times. No rush, don’t anticipate. Calm and smooth is the only way to mange this hand-crafted instrument. The firing pin is launched forward striking the primer of the cartridge. I keep pressing the trigger rearward to ensure follow through and immediately feel the weapon recoil into my shoulder.

Some of the force is dissipated by the extravagant muzzle brake, leaving the remaining force to be absorbed through my entire torso. No gaps in my weld with the rifle means no unnecessary kick, I ride with the rifle and my entire body absorbs the recoil. I don’t lose my control or my position. The projectile leaves the barrel at 2780ft/sec. 0.12 seconds later it is 100m away from my position racing through its depleting parabolic arc. I automatically and smoothly cycle the bolt and chamber a fresh round. My only thoughts are centred on the need to return my reticle to the target as quickly as possible. This part is all instinct – conscious thought at this stage is unnecessary, and would be all too slow for the circumstances. I’m back on target 1.5 seconds after releasing the shot. I settle just in time to see dirt and rocks kick up in a mini explosion to the right of the target. I quickly note the exact position of the impact relative to my reticle. The round was 0.1mils right of target and 0.1mils low. “Miss! Point one left, point one up! Send it,” Ray mirrors my own thoughts. I am already moving to offset my reticle and release my next shot. The quicker I release this next shot the better chance ill engage the same atmospheric conditions that affected my first round. Two seconds is the window I try to operate within. Crack, the second round is on its way. 2.53 seconds later and 1141m away, the 4inch reddish ceramic skeet disc explodes in our optic views. The

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The author, left, with spotter in central NSW, shooting clay skeets, the target of choice.

196-grain armour-piercing projectile has lost 513m/s in velocity by the time it hits with its remaining subsonic lethality. Not bad shooting for a .308 considering my first ‘miss’ was a mere 10cm from my POA. Could I have made that shot when I first started sniping? The simple answer is no. At least not with the same relative ease and confidence. So what has changed over the past 10 or so years that allows us to consistently outshoot the manufacturers’ stated accuracy for their rifles? What was the turning point in our profession that has allowed us unparalleled long-range shooting abilities? The answer is “our knowledge”, a quantum leap in our knowledge of ballistics via access to ballistic software. Yes, there are aspects of shooting that are relatively timeless. Aspects such as position and hold of the rifle, natural alignment, sight alignment and aiming, shot release and follow through. These points ,all recognised by shooters as the principles of applied marksmanship, Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

have not changed a great deal in their purest forms. But our understanding of ballistics has definitely changed. When writing a short article like this for CONTACT magazine, it’s very hard to condense the information I’d like to share. I’ll concentrate on a few of the key knowledge points to alleviate this problem and hope to connect with both the experienced, non-experienced and non-shooters who read this magazine. For years we would go to the range and shoot with expert application of skill, all relative to the technology and our understanding at the time. Until this past decade, police snipers were expert out to 400m, shooting movers, snaps and hostage-style targetry. Our shooting environment required absolute certainty and accuracy. A stray round from a miss in a busy central business district or suburban area was not an option. Once we started deploying overseas, our requirements changed and we met those challenges head on.

In the early millennium, guys were maxed out at 800m with rugged accuracy at best for .308 caliber. But, by 2008 I found it hard to get my snipers to practice shooting any closer than 750m, because they found it completely boring. Extended ranges meant we spent a lot of time out bush on panoramic shoots that could accomodate the distances we were engaging. Most civilian and military ranges were limited in both distance and the fact that they were usually flat, operationally unrealistic open expanses. We have evolved exponentially in the past decade and this is due to our growing understanding of internal and external ballistics. Ballistic software now provides invaluable assistance, which allows the shooter to push through the transonic zone of his chosen caliber and remain relevant on the other side.


The Trimble Nomad (left) is the author’s choice of ruggedised PDA to run ballistic software – “We used this PDA extensively in all environments. Quality kit but expensive. The Getac ruggedised PDA (right) is a good system too.”

800m is no longer the maximum operational distance for .308 as prescribed in most weapon manuals. Now we push well past the 1000m mark with a high first-round hit probability, and viable drills for a rapid follow up shot ensuring an almost certain second-hit capability. This increase obviously translates in kind to .300, .338 and .50 calibers as well. One Australian SF sniper recorded a hit-kill past 2800m with .50cal in recent times. In 2005-2006, snipers from my unit, the Tactical Operations Unit, started looking at a new weapon system and some ballistic software that accompanied it. The rifle system was the Blaser Tactical 2 Rifle in .308 and .338 inter-changeable calibers. The software at that time was Delta IV, Field Firing Solutions from Lex Talus Corporation.


Main solution screen on PDA for Field Firing Solutions Delta V from Lex Talus Corporation. Can run metric or imperial settings.

Myself and my mentor at the time, Jimmy, wrote the business case to gain this new kit and have it funded federally in the buildup for the CT response for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Sydney. Another key individual in the procurement of this equipment into Australian Police Tactical Group snipers was Glen Roberts from WATRG. I mentioned Glen in a previous article. Glen was the true pioneer with regards to software and long-range shooting in our era. Glen is a true innovator and we must recognise his considerable contributions to PTG sniping. Glen said to me recently, “There is something about hitting small targets at long range. I find it fascinating when this is achieved with a precision rifle at distances that take several minutes to drive to. I have found it

simple over the years and in the same breath, extremely complicated. I wanted my guys to not only be good at traditional ranges, but good to go at the longer ones too. I wasn’t satisfied at ranges out to 600m – 800m. No, this was too close. If we could see the target I wanted to hit it. I studied everything about wind, ballistic modelling, projectile shapes and weight distributions, supersonic wave-drag theory, environmental effects and every bit of equipment required to enhance target engagements at distances beyond 1600m. When people ask why, I say why not.” We organised for Glen to attend the TOU and run our snipers through his Blaser package and also the accompanying software. From this point on, I have never looked back, my eyes opened forever to secrets that had previously eluded us. Once exposed to the

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Robbo shooting in Western Australia.

software and the immediate ballistic information it supplies, guys found themselves in an exponential learning curve that continues today. Glen went on to perform exhaustive testing over the years on temperature variances, powder-burn rates, bullet velocity zones (super sonic, transonic and subsonic) and ballistic coefficients. Robbo readily shared the information with fellow snipers who were now addicts to pushing the limits of their shooting. We all shared our respective shooting knowledge, with information regularly moving back and forth between units. When the Marksman Reconnaissance Team was set up for the newly created Operational Support Group in the AFP in 2007, I once again organised for Glen to come and assist with running his most current training package for my guys. I found myself neck deep in the learning process again, especially regarding BCs. By this point in time the software had advanced to

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Delta V and it provided some subtle yet important improvements. The MRT and WATRG snipers found themselves in a strong alliance when it came to advancement of our craft. Both units were totally committed to improving overall sniping capabilities. The MRT had considerably more funding than any of the state police sniper teams and we were lucky to enjoy a full-time dedicated role within the AFP, with solid commitments both domestically and on overseas deployments. The AFP funding coupled with the truly innovative guys in that team ensured progression. Guys like Tim Russell, Ray O, Nathan C, Nick G and Jason B were instrumental in the first five years of its existence. These guys were all about their tradecraft 24/7 – and our wives can testify to this. The result was a perfect storm of innovation and commitment. Bam and his crew keep the tradition strong today, even with external influences trying to

water down the capability at times. Delta IV and the updated Delta V suddenly allowed us to understand the true measurable effects that temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, spin drift, bullet velocity zones, coriolis effect, muzzle velocity, powder burnt rates and ballistic coefficients had on our shooting. We also learnt how to apply this knowledge from when the rounds were supersonic, transonic and subsonic – data that is sometimes difficult to achieve. We learnt that temperature could change our POI (point of impact) by 0.1Mil (one click for milliradian scopes) per 5 degree change in certain ambient temperature ranges (hotter temp means POI up, cold POI down). This was our field estimate system for temperature change inside supersonic ranges. If you wanted the exact change you just refer to the PDA and software. The measurable effect relating to temp is incredibly important. If you had zeroed your rifle for a particular


The Blaser Tactical 2 sniper rifle

Calibre Weight Length Barrel length Muzzle velocity Effective range

.338 9.14kg (with full magazine) 1230mm 627mm 800–915m/second 1500m

ammunition at 20 degrees Celsius, then went to shoot later that day when it was 35 degrees, you would find your POI higher than your nominated POA. So the 100m zero would appear high now. The zero had not changed, only the temp had changed, and thus so had the way the bullet penetrates the change in air density. The temp also changed the rate at which the powder burns in the cartridge. Obviously the temperature effect is not as apparent at 100m. At 700m however a 15-degree temperature change translates to a POI change of 0.3 mils (21cm) before you take anything else into account. In other words the shooting solution for 20deg would be 71 clicks and at 35 degrees it would be 68 clicks. At 1000m your POI is out by 0.9 mils (9 clicks) which translates to 90cm. In our tradecraft we need to remove as much of the shooting-solution error as possible before the human skill factor is added to the equation. This was why so many guys chased their zero and always found themselves ‘slipping rings’ (re-calibrating


elevation and azimuth zero settings). It pains me to think about these things today with the ballistic knowledge we now possess. One of the most powerful aspects of the software is that once you have achieved your 100m zero, the software can then provide you an extremely accurate range card out to any range. I can print up a range card that has the elevation and azimuth solutions for every meter out to say 1200m for my .308. I can then tabulate figures on that card relative to a number of different temperature ranges. The software allows you to input every variable needed to give the shooter the most accurate shooting solution possible. Ambient temperature, wind speed and direction, target speed or shooter speed (helo sniping), distance, station/barometric pressure, inclination, humidity, ammunition burn rate, muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient of the round – and even allows you to calculate what is called the ‘DK value’.

The DK value is a unique application (though not widely used) in Delta V that allows for variations in the actual human shooting the weapon. If there are any inconsistencies in the accuracy of a particular sniper when all of the external inputs required are completely correct, it allows him to calculate this value by telling the software where his POI is consistently wrong. So if his POI is consistently 0.2 mils low on every solution from the software, he plugs that error into the algorithm. Once the new DK value is determined and added to his shooting profile, the software will always adjust his solutions cognisant of his DK value. A sniper who is new to a rifle will bed in to that gun over time, making slight adjustments to his shooting position and eye relief, these all affect his fall of shot. The DK is designed to change with the shooter. Our knowledge and access to such revolutionary software allowed us to work out the true ballistic coefficients (BC) of ammunition we were using. Ammunition manufacturers traditionally have been a

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Author Jason Semple with spotter. “We encouraged shooting from all positions. This spot was a nasty uphill gallery we built deep in the Queensland bush.”

little over zealous shall we say when advertising their ammunition BC on their packaging. I won’t mention specific ammunition in this article, but it’s safe to say that some very good ammunition brands came with manufacturer BCs of say 0.67 for projectiles with true BCs of 0.515 and 0.525. An incorrect BC will be completely disastrous for any shooter wanting to reach out, especially if the target range places the projectile in the subsonic region of its travel. A difference of even 0.05 in a projectiles BC will cause substantial misses once subsonic. We now train our guys how to calculate true BCs using chronographs, which we use to measure the bullet velocities at multiple distances during the same shot. We also use a method called truing, where the shooter records consistent errors in his POI when given solutions via software using a generic BC such as 0.5. Once the consistent error is identified, this error is fed into a specialised application that calculates the true BC. Being able to work out these important variables

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ourselves has been something I would not have dreamed of when I was first introduced to sniping. Knowing the effects of temperature and barometric pressure on a round and knowing your muzzle velocity and BC for a given round have to be the most important pieces of the shooting puzzle that were missing when I first started shooting. Our obsession with them over the years has allowed us to shoot some incredible distances with accuracy. It always amazes me. I can’t ever get enough of the whole process. Of course, not all tactical situations allow a sniper to use the software and related equipment, whether through time constraints, environmental constraints or imminent threat. I guarantee, however, that snipers who use it regularly in training are much more intuitive in how they shoot and are much better at understanding the environmental factors that affect any given shot. We have been shooting out past 2400m with accuracy levels we could not have dreamed of in the

early millennium. Some people over the years have questioned the need for my guys to shoot these distances when operational statistics say they are not needed. Counter-sniping definitely requires us to have these skills, and as Glen Roberts once said to me, “If you can smash a 4-inch disc 1500m away, how easy is it to smack someone inside 300”. I have always pinched myself that someone actually paid me to do my job as a sniper. Yeah there were many times we were in imminent danger and we suffered being deployed on some horrendous operations in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth. But, lying next to your mate – that impending anticipation – the gratification of success – it’s an amazing skill that is shared with a brotherhood I love and respect. Always strive forward. Never be satisfied with mediocrity.






ADF gets new Assault rifle


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E N H A N C E D F88 There are few things more precious and personal to a soldier than their rifle. They need it to function reliably, be easy to maintain, be accurate, prove lethal in combat, never be more than an arms-length away and, well, just feel ‘right’. For almost a whole generation of Australian soldiers, the F88 Steyr has been the rifle employed by the Australian warfighter. Before its introduction into service, this space-age-looking weapon of plastic, metal, bull-pup configuration, fixed telescopic sight and enigmatic colour scheme was limited to the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. Since its roll out, it has been issued, carried and employed operationally by Australian soldiers across the world. It would be fair to say the F88 has proven to be a functional, reliable, accurate and lethal rifle for the Australian soldier. It has been demonstrably more accurate than its predecessor, the venerable 7.62mm Self Loading Rifle. Furthermore, it is lighter, easier to maintain and, well, ‘feels much better’ than its forebear. Finally, it has been employed both effectively and expertly in combat operations. This is not to say the F88 did not have areas for improvement – both perceived and actual. After all, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ weapon. Each and Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

every rifle possesses comparative advantages and trade-offs. Many of the F88’s perceived and actual areas for improvement emerged in the ‘noughties’ when operational realities and evolutions in weapon and target acquisition ancillary design progressively made the F88 feel heavier, less balanced and, by virtue of its fixed 1.5-power telescopic site, less accurate (arguably, this same trend affected most, if not all, assault rifles). Overall, the F88 eventually started to feel less ‘right’. This feeling was compounded by Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) migrating to the M4 assault rifle. The take-up of the M4 by SOCOMD fuelled an unsubstantiated assumption that the F88 was inferior to the M4 in terms of function, performance, accuracy, reliability and lethality. In many cases, this assumption was exacerbated by the natural allure of all things ‘special forces’. For many, assumption both invariably and erroneously became fact over time. Of course, the F88 remained as accurate and lethal as ever. Moreover, its reliability never faltered. Over the past 15 years, Army, in cooperation with industry, attempted to address its perceived and actual areas for improvement by introducing successive upgrades. First came the grenade launcher attachment and

a STANAG rail system. Then the SA2 arrived. These upgrades were matched by the rollout of a range of target-acquisition ancillaries – from the night aiming device to the ELCAN 4x sight and the TA31 ACOG. However, the desire to pursue a number of improvements to the F88 endured. Consequently, around 2010, Army embarked on a journey to once again deliver a leading, highly reliable, readily maintainable, exceedingly accurate and lethal rifle to the Australian soldier. Critically, Army also intended to deliver a rifle that had the potential to evolve rapidly over its life span. That is, deliver a weapon that was ‘future proofed’ against the type of operational and commercial developments that exposed real and perceived areas for improvements in the F88 throughout the ‘noughties’. Five years later and – voila! The Enhanced F88 (EF88) is being introduced to the Australian Army. What is Army’s intent with the EF88? In short, deliver a rifle in which Australian soldiers have absolute confidence; a weapon they know is highly reliable, easily maintained, devastatingly lethal, light and modular, can readily evolve and, yes, feels ‘right’. Initial issue of the EF88 commenced in June 2015 with the provision of 700 weapons to the 1st Battalion, Royal 83




Australian Regiment (1RAR). During the period 2016 to 2019, some 30,000 EF88s will be issued to Army’s Combat Brigades, Support Brigades, 1st Division, 2nd Division’s Multi-Role Battlegroup and Security Force units in Air Force. As the EF88 is rolled-out, the F88SA1 will be retired. Those units from Forces Command, 1st and 2nd Divisions not receiving the EF88 will continue to employ the F88SA2.

WHAT ABOUT THE FACTS It is all well and good to claim the EF88 is a considerable improvement over its predecessors. It is an even bolder claim to allege it is equal to or better than other commercially available rifles. Salesmen and gun-runners make such pronouncements all of the time. Well, don’t be seduced by the glossy brochures. Review the facts in the table (left) and images for yourself. And, the facts demonstrate the EF88 is indeed lighter and more modular than its forerunners. Furthermore, what is illustrated is that the EF88 addresses many of the longstanding perceived and actual areas for improvement associated with the F88. Some of the key improvements include: • It is substantially lighter. The 20” standard variant is 3.39 kg and the 16” model is 3.25 kg – almost half a kilo lighter than the F88SA2. • The stock has been redesigned to make it far more ergonomic. This includes a ribbed butt-plate that allows better purchase when firing from the shoulder – with or without body armour. In addition, the movement of the ejection port and the inclusion of a cheek-weld make the weapon easier to fire – with or without a combat helmet. • Similar ergonomic enhancements have been made to the shape of the trigger guard and the GLA trigger system. Trials have indicated this makes the weapon easier to employ during both deliberate and combat shooting. • The STANAG 4694 extended rails on the top and right side of the receiver group enable the weapon to readily accommodate a range of current and likely future target acquisition ancillaries. Such ancillaries are being delivered with the EF88 – see below for description. • The centre of gravity of the weapon has shifted rearwards, thereby making the weapon feel even lighter than it is – as well as remarkably well-balanced. • The barrel is fluted, more rigid and enables better heat dispersion. • The gas plug and folding cocking handle are far more user-friendly than previously. • The side-opening GLA accommodates all lethal and non-lethal munitions. Moreover, its lightweight construction makes it one of the lightest GLAs commercially available. • Its superior reliability and maintainability has been confirmed via user trials and rigorous testing involving the firing of more than 500,000 rounds, subjecting the weapon to stringent environmental stressors including sand and dust, and exposing the weapon to numerous contaminants. • The inclusion of a bottom, or 6 o’clock rail that allows a bipod to be fitted. This feature dramatically increases the accuracy of the rifle. It also allows the GLA to be attached and removed by the operator. 84



F88C F88SA2



‘Redgun’ – Simulation Replica

It is very difficult to provide factual, commercially-releasable evidence of the EF88’s reliability, maintainability and accuracy. However, what can be made public is that successive and exhaustive user trials have found the EF88 to be ‘exceptional’, ‘impressive’ and ‘a significant step forward’. The positive feedback from these trials is reflected in the EF88 reviews profiled on numerous weapon blogs. The EF88’s design improvements have also been matched by the development and introduction of slicker weapon drills. Examples include, but are not limited to: not removing the barrel to clear the weapon (the barrel is actually fixed and cannot be removed); more instinctive stoppage drills; and, faster magazine-changing procedures. It is anticipated that these design and procedure changes will further enhance the superior functionality, reliability, accuracy, lethality and ‘feel’ of the EF88 for the soldier. Of course, the EF88 constitutes only one half of Army’s formula to enhance the accuracy and lethality of its rifle. Concurrent to the introduction of the EF88, Army will deliver the following target acquisition ancillaries: • the side-opening Steyr Manlicher SL40 40mm GLA • an enhanced day sight for all combatants • an in-line image intensification device that will enable select combatants to surveil and acquire targets by night and in low-light conditions Find, like and share CONTACT Air Land & Sea on

• an in-line thermal weapon sight that will enable commanders and marksmen to surveil and acquire targets • a high-powered weapon torch that attaches to the 6 o’clock rail • a series of foregrips and bipods that enable a much more stable firing platform for each combatant – extending the effective range of the weapon out to 600m. The combination of EF88 and target acquisition ancillaries will realise the significant enhancement in lethality afforded by the EF88 weapon system. Specific information on these ancillaries will be provided in the next edition of CONTACT. This lethality will be further enhanced through Army’s night-fighting-equipment replacement project. Aside from delivering a far better night fighting binocular, this project will also deliver state-of-the-art laser aiming devices for the EF88. It would be fair to say the news for soldiers being issued the EF88 keeps getting better and better! We talked earlier about ‘future-proofing’ the EF88 against the very developments that led to perceived/actual areas for improvement in the F88. Evidently, Army wants to learn from recent history and ensure the EF88 has the ability to evolve, and remain a leader over its life of type. Well, one of the most encouraging attributes of the EF88 is its potential for future Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com



Weight unloaded/loaded

Barrel length









F88SA1 Carbine








F88SA2 with GLA




EF88 20”




EF88 20” with GLA




EF88 16”




M4A1 Carbine




M4A1 Carbine with GLA


Source: LWP-G 7-4-12, 5.56 mm F88 Austeyr Family of Weapons, 2010; LWP-G 7-4-17, M4A1 Modular Weapon System, 2014; Thalesgroup.com; TheRogueAdventurer.com 85




design growth. Already, Army is working with the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group to consider a range of design initiatives for the EF88. Given Army’s intent to incorporate spiral development into all of its soldier combat system initiatives, the future for the EF88 looks very promising.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM Some final issues/elephants in the room worth considering: Why is it called the EF88? The EF88 is the name selected for those rifles issued to the Australian Army and Australian Defence Force. Thales uses the F90 nomenclature for the weapon it hopes to export on the international assault-rifle market. Why not just buy the M4? While Army is very satisfied with the M4 for SOCOMD’s unique mission profiles, it has absolute confidence the EF88 and target-acquisition ancillaries it is delivering to the rest of Army is the right way forward. In short, extensive trials have confirmed it fits the bill! It is functional, extremely reliable, devastatingly accurate and lethal, lightweight, superbly balanced, is future-proofed and, critically, according to user feedback thus far, feels ‘right’. 86

The investment made by Thales, Army and the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group in developing the EF88 is unmatched. Furthermore, when one sifts the myths from facts when comparing the EF88 and M4, Army’s choice is justified. Finally, one cannot dispute the fact that Army can transition to the EF88 far more readily than it could convert to the M4. This is no small consideration when analysing the impacts on retraining soldiers and maintainers in a fundamentally different weapon system (M4), while also sustaining Army’s readiness requirements. Army has commenced the roll out of its new rifle, the EF88. From 2016, a range of state-of-the-art target acquisition ancillaries will complement it. There is ample evidence that Army is providing a world-class rifle that has leading functionality and reliability, is easy to maintain, is incredibly accurate and lethal and will be futureproofed. Indeed, the Australian soldier should be encouraged that Army is providing them with an advanced, superior weapon in which they can have absolute confidence, a sense of pride and an assurance that it will feel ‘right’. Find, like and share CONTACT Air Land & Sea on

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Fixed, lighter barrel Improved gas-plug adjustment Double-action, side-opening grenade launcher NATO-STD accessory rail for laser aimers Improved trigger guard grip access Improved access to GLA trigger

7. Extended ejection port and recessed covers 8. Non-slip butt plate 9. Modified hammer pack to improve reliability and facilitate silent cocking 10. Improved cheek weld 11. Improved red dot grenade launcher sight

12. Extended NATO-STD top rail for in-line accessories 13. Reduced overall mass, improved balance 14. NATO-STD rail for grips, bipods and visual illumination devices 15. Folding cocking handle – less valuable to damage 16. Bolt release catch for faster magazine release

Private Daniel Horrigan, 1RAR, with a custompainted EF88 and attached grenade launcher. Photo by Lance Corporal MD Scheimer

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IN NORSE MYTHOLOGY, AN APPROACHING ROLLING THUNDER IS ATTRIBUTED TO THOR STRIKING HIS HAMMER AGAINST THE HEAVENS AND THE CONSEQUENCES WERE OFTEN CALAMITOUS Well, a rolling, devastating thunder is rapidly approaching the Australian Army’s dismounted combat capability. This thunder is embodied in the General Dynamics Mk 47 Striker Next Generation Lightweight Automatic Grenade Launcher System (LWAGL), approximately 200 of which will be delivered to the defensive fire-support weapons platoons of standard infantry battalions, artillery gun lines, special operations command and air force security-force elements from early 2017. Destructive, catastrophically accurate, reliable, lightweight, modular and ergonomic are fitting descriptors for the Mk 47 LWAGL. LWAGL’s destructiveness is enabled by its ability to effectively engage point targets to 1500m and area targets to 2000m at a rate of fire exceeding 225 rounds per minute. And its potency will likely be enhanced by the emerging availability of advanced air-bursting ammunition. LWAGL’s devastating accuracy is underpinned by its evolutionary lightweight video sight (LVS), which offers a cutting-edge eye-safe laser range-finding capability with a range of 40 to 2000m and margin of error of 1m. It also provides third-generation image intensification for both day and night firing, a thermal imaging 88

camera and a ballistic computer to facilitate detection, recognition and first-round engagement of targets. The extensive operational employment of the Mk 47 by United States Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) and the Israeli Defence Force over the past decade is clear testament of its utility and reliability. More than 1000 Mk 47s have seen active service with US SOCOMD alone.

LIGHT WEIGHT AND MODULAR The Mk 47 LWAGL is the most lightweight and modular light-weight automatic grenade launcher (AGL) currently available. It is significantly lighter than the Mk 19. Indeed, the weight saving equates to around 50 per cent. This weight saving has been gained through investment in lighter and composite materials. In addition, it is far more compact than the Mk 19. The comparison in weight and dimensions is summarised in the table above. Versatility and modularity are key features of the Mk 47 LWAGL, with the ability to mount it on a tripod or vehicle in both manual-aiming and remote-weaponstation configurations. It can also be readily broken

down into constituent parts to enable dismounted portability. The Australian government signed a multi-million dollar acquisition and support contract for a Light Weight Automatic Grenade Launcher capability for the Australian Defence Force in late August 2015. This contract, between Defence and Australian company Nioa Pty Ltd, has an estimated value of $47million. In a statement, Defence said that as part of project Land 40 Phase 2, the acquisition of this new lightweight automatic grenade launcher represented a key step in the modernisation of the ADF’s lethality and capability. “Nioa Pty Ltd is based in Brisbane and will oversee the delivery and support of the LWAGL to the ADF,” a Defence spokesman said. “Nioa currently employs approximately 50 staff, and three new jobs will be created [because of this contract], as well as opportunities for other Australian companies to provide ongoing support and maintenance services. “Under this contract more than 200 Mk 47 LWAGL systems will be delivered to the ADF from the third quarter of 2016 until mid 2017.”

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MK 47 STRIKER Lightweight Automatic Grenade Launcher By General Dynamics

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

Colour heads-up display screen Lightweight video sight (LVS) Feed plate Barrel Barrel sleeve Man-portable tripod Handgrips Trigger





Unlike the mythology surrounding Thor’s hammer, the approaching, rolling thunder of the Australian Army’s Mk 47 LWAGL is very real This approaching thunder will usher an exponential increase to the combat power of relevant Australian Army and other units – and the combinedarms teams to which they contribute

Ergonomics The superior ergonomics of the Mk 47 LWAGL are rooted in the following key design features: • Compact size and short recoil. • Locked breech that fires from a closed bolt for improved fire/shot/hit probability. • Air-cooled and belt fed, using standard disintegrating belts supplied in 32- or 48-round boxes. The projectiles are fed via a hardened case. • A robust receiver containing the working parts of the weapon. • The barrel is contained within a short tube. • The LVS is attached to the right side of the weapon and is operated by a series of buttons. There is also a back-up sight. The LVS display is a heads-up display on a flat screen. It is adjustable and can be detached. • Battery power is rated for 8 hours. • A manual trigger mechanism with unique safe and fire positions. The weapon will not fire if the barrel or buffer are not correctly installed. The firing pin does not release unless the bolt is in the closed position and the design prevents short recoils or a runaway gun. • Empty cartridges are ejected downwards and when the top cover is opened the belt stays in place. • Total charge pull is 55 per cent that of the Mk 19. 90

Ammunition options As reported by CONTACT in September 2013, Australian Munitions and Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd (ST Kinetics) signed an agreement to cooperate in Australia and New Zealand to develop, manufacture and market ST Kinetics’ world-leading 40mm low velocity, extended-range and air-bursting ammunition. The two companies will focus on making new 40mm capabilities available to the ADF and establishing supply chains from within Australia. ST Kinetics already designs and manufactures a range of 40mm weapons and ammunition. Its 40mm ammunition range includes air-bursting, self-destruct and even camera-surveillance rounds. The company’s 40mm ammunition is currently in service with a number of countries. Australian Munitions Executive General Manager Kevin Wall said

the introduction of this capability to Australia would give Defence new options in 40mm ammunition. “This range also complements the broad and deep product portfolio offered by the Thales Group and our strategic partners,” Mr Wall said. Australian Munitions is part of Thales group and is the largest manufacturer and supplier of explosive ordnance in Australia. If taken on by the ADF, the new range of 40mm ammunition would be manufactured at the company’s Benalla, Victoria, facility.

Mk 19

Mk 47


40x53 mm

40x53 mm


Short recoil operated, belt fed automatic grenade launcher


Gun: 35.2kg Total System weight: 63kg

Gun: 17.7kg Total System weight – including LVS: 40.3kg

Effective range

Point targets: 1500m Area targets: 2000m

Point targets: 1500m Area targets: 2000m Indirect capability: yes

Rate of Fire

325-375 rounds per minute

225-300 rounds per minute


Overall: 1090mm Barrel: 413mm

Overall: 930mm Barrel: 520mm








Turret, pedestal or tripod

Total charge pull


% Recoiling mass

55% of Mk 19

Mk 47 LWAGL will be issued to

• standard infantry battalions • artillery gun lines • special operations command • airfield defence guards

US Marine Corps photo by Corporal Kyle McNally

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A new Australia C-27J Spartan from No 35 Squadron, RAAF, conducted its first air-drop training sorties from RAAF Base Richmond in October 2015. The flights dropped four container delivery systems (CDS) to the Londonderry Drop Zone in Sydney’s north west. A single CDS was delivered in each pass, allowing the aircraft’s crew to 92

build their experience in the correct methods of air drop from the Spartan. A CDS is a common means of delivering cargo such as water, rations, ammunition or other supplies by air, and is compatible across the fleet of RAAF transports. Australia acquired 10 C-27J Spartans to replace the DHC-4 Caribou, which

was retired in 2009 after more than 40 years service. The C-27J Spartan fleet will initially be based at Richmond near Sydney until their permanent home at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland is ready.


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SMART CARGO The next step in airdrop capability for the ADF made its mark at Woomera Test Range in South Australia in July when the Joint Precision Airdrop System – JPADS – was the focus of an Air Force/Army capability demo. By combining existing airdrop practice with GPS technology, JPADS allows accurate delivery of payloads to a drop zone using steerable parachutes. This allows the delivery aircraft to drop its cargo several kilometres away from the DZ from altitudes up to 25,000 feet – well outside the range of ground-based weapons. The Woomera trial was conducted by Air Movements Training and Development Unit (AMTDU), a joint Air Force and Army unit from RAAF Base Richmond. Test Director AMTDU Flight Lieutenant Justin Della Bosca said the point of impact for the JPADS payload was programmed into the guidance unit by the aircrew during the mission-planning phase.

“The JPADS capability enables precision resupply to ground forces from high altitudes and from long stand-off distance,” Flight Lieutenant Della Bosca said. “This reduces the aircraft’s exposure to ground-based threats as well as enabling an aircraft to launch resupply to multiple drop zones from a single release point.” JPADS kits can accommodate one tonne of any payload type that will fit into a standard delivery system. The recent trial at Woomera used a C-130J Hercules, and represented AMTDU’s next step in building a sustainable JPADS capability for the ADF. Flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet with the C-130J’s ramp open required the crew to be on oxygen masks for the mission. Flight Lieutenant Della Bosca said the aircraft released an 800kg load approximately 18.5km from the planned impact point and it landed within 25m of the target, and within six seconds of its predicted arrival time. AMTDU will make a number of recommendations from lessons learnt during the evaluation, allowing for a limited JPADS training capability on the C-130J. The next goal is to roll out JPADS on C-27J Spartan, and use JPADS in support of operations. Sergeant Mark Ferrer, a rigger supervisor with AMTDU, said the JPADS kit was reusable. “The complete system consists of a canopy, pilot chute and autonomous guidance unit,” he said. “Recovery of the system requires a drop zone team of four personnel to lift and remove it, and to re-use the system, three qualified parachute riggers and one checker need to re-service the kit, which includes inspection and repair of damage, if required.” AMTDU project officer WO1 Anthony Eddie said JPADS would take Australian Army Air Dispatch into a new and exciting era of guided cargo airdrop. “Being able to airdrop one tonne of cargo from an aeroplane at 25,000 feet is remarkable,” WO1 Eddie said. “To do that, and have the cargo land within 25m of any designated location, is excellent.”

A JPADS test flight in America. US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Leah Young

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CAUGHT IN THE WILD Photo by Dean McConaghy

Supacat – the new wild beast of Aussie Special Ops, was seen prancing around Perth streets recently, snapped by CONTACT fan Dean McConaghy. Defence awarded a multi-million dollar contract for 89 of the specialised vehicles for Special Ops Command in earlier 2015. The contract for $141million went to Supacat Ltd to deliver 89 Special Operations VehiclesCommando under the JP2097 Ph 1B (REDFIN) program. SOV-Cdo is based on the latest MK2 version of Supacat’s HMT Extenda and is designed to meet Australian special-force’s requirements, including recovery and airlift provisions, weapon and C4 (command and control, computers and communications) integration, and load carriage. Communications on board will provide digital connectivity across the ADF as well as with Coalition partners. The contract follows the completion of prototype development and evaluation phase in which Supacat built and delivered the prototype SOV-Cdo. Initial operating capability is scheduled for August 2016. The vehicles are named ‘Nary’, in honour of Special Forces soldier WO2 David Nary, who died in a training accident in the Middle East in 2005. 93



Test ed overse as The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron spent a lot of time testing their bird, honing skills and mixing with their allies and neighbours at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area on Queensland’s central coaast during Exercise Talisman Sabre, Australia’s largest warfighting exercise. Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said Talisman Sabre marked the first time New Zealand’s NH90s have been taken overseas and was a great opportunity to use the helicopters to their full ability in a coalition environment. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) was invited to participate fully for the first time in Talisman Sabre this year. The exercise ran from 5-21 July in multiple training areas in Australia and the United States. It was preceeded by several work-up exercises and activities by all participants, including the Kiwis, for whom just getting to the event was a major exercise in itself – embarking two NH90s and around 45 military vehicles, including 22 Light Armoured Vehicles, aboard HMNZS Canterbury for the hop across ’the ditch’. Air Commodore McEvoy said exercises such as Talisman Sabre provided excellent training to further hone warfighting capabilities and New Zealand’s ability to respond to a wide variety of contingencies. “It is also an opportunity to train with key partners – Australia and the United States – so we can enhance our ability to operate alongside them,” he said. “NZDF can use learnings from Talisman Sabre to develop our Joint Task Force, which can deploy, operate and sustain combat forces from Army, Air and Navy away from New Zealand. “The Joint Task Force makes NZDF an expeditionary force able to fully deploy overseas, and is targeted to be fully operational by the end of 2015.” NZDF deployed two ships, two NH90s, a Seasprite helicopter, a C-130 Hercules, around 45 military vehicles including 22 Light Armoured Vehicles, and 620 personnel for Talisman Sabre. The Air Force’s 3 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Scott McKenzie, operated as part of the Australian Army’s 16th Aviation Brigade during the exercise.


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A LITTLE NIGHT FLYING The Royal New Zealand Air Force conducted routine military training of RNZAF and Army personnel in urban flying operations over 5-8 May 2015 in and around Palmerston North, including the central business district. Air Component Commander, Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy said the activity was regular training exercises conducted by No. 3 Squadron based

at RNZAF Base Ohakea using the Air Force’s NH90 and A109 helicopters. “Exercising in an urban setting prepares us for being able to operate in the city when we are called upon, typically in emergency situations, so it is an important part of our training,” Air Commodore McEvoy said. “All RNZAF flying operations are conducted with safety in mind and meet civil aviation regulations.

“The Manawatu region is an excellent training location for us and we are appreciative of the local support we receive.” The exercise involved daytime and evening flying with RNZAF helicopters taking off and landing at Ohakea Military Air Base, and Linton Military Camp.

Photo by Anthony Pecchi

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Albatross loves

A brand new and potent warfighting aircraft and an old and proud squadron were both formally commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in June. MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ and its parent unit 725 Squadron were both introduced into the fleet at a formal cermony at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales, on 11 June. A total fleet of 24 MH-60R was acquired by the RAN, at a cost of about $3.2 billion, to fill an advanced anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfighting requirement. About half the helicopter fleet has been delivered, apparently on budget and ahead of schedule. The helicopter, which is in essence a military-off-the-shelf purchase, is equipped with a sophisticated sensor suite, Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedoes and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. Acquisition of 24 ‘Romeos’ means Navy will have the simultanious capacity to provide at least eight warships with an embarked combat helicopter, with the balance based at HMAS Albatross in various stages of the training and maintenance cycles. Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer said 725 Squadron represented the future of naval aviation in Australia. “Romeo has already demonstrated great prowess as the maritime combat helicopter of the Royal Australian Navy,” he said. “Now 725 Squadron, and in the future 816 Squadron, will take this very capable aircraft even further and will join with the surface and subsurface elements of the fleet in forming a networked sea-control team.” 725 Squadron was originally raised in the Royal Navy in 1943 and disbanded in 1945. It was first formed as a Royal Australian Navy Air Squadron in 1958 and, apart from a brief break in 1961/62, served continuously until its last decommissioning in 1975. Although formally commissioned on 11 June 2015 (with the commanding officer and some members of 1975’s 725 Squadron present) the unit was actually reraised in Jacksonville, Florida, nearly two and a half years ago to accept the first helicopters. 725 Squadron served in Vietnam, in the Melbourne-Voyager-crash rescue in 1964 and clean up efforts after Cyclone Tracy in 1974.



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CONTACT asked No. 36 Squadron XO Squadron Leader Steve Ferguson, who flew the first mission on 5 November, about the historic milestone. CONTACT: What was the overall experience like? Squadron Leader Ferguson: The experience of operating in Antarctica for pilots is a career highlight. Only a fraction of the world’s population visit Antarctica in their lifetime, and a smaller fraction still can say they have flown a C-17 on and off the ice there. CONTACT: What special considerations come into play when landing a heavy aircraft on ice? Squadron Leader Ferguson: The ice runway at Wilkins is sited on a glacier that is 700m thick. The surface is textured to provide grip for the aircraft wheels and is similar to a wet, sealed runway. While the ice runway presents some challenges, the broader challenges lie in the fickle nature of Antarctic weather, and the fact that you are a long way from civilisation if anything goes wrong. There are a number of additional risks which need to be managed when operating into and out of Antarctica which individually do not necessarily make the operation dangerous, but in combination have the potential to do so. CONTACT: Is it a ‘hairy’ experience in any way?

RAAF and Australian Antarctic Division commenced joint missions to Antarctica, with C-17A Globemasters landing at Wilkins Aerodrome in November. A C-17A flew the 3450km in just over five hours, landing at Wilkins Aerodrome near Casey Station on 5 November and again on 21 November, with small loads of cargo. The missions are the start of a proof-of-concept series, with the remaining flights scheduled between now and February next year.


Squadron Leader Ferguson: No, the actual act of flying the approach and landing to Wilkins is quite standard and in good weather is fairly benign. However, approaching Wilkins and landing on the ice would be more challenging in some of the adverse weather conditions which are common to the area, and which can change very quickly. Our crews have very robust decision-making systems, both before and in flight, to ensure the aircraft and crew are not exposed to a dangerous approach, landing or subsequent takeoff conditions. The takeoff is normal, however the procedures leading up to it, including start and taxi in very cold ambient conditions are different, and these have some very specific flight-manual procedures which crews follow when on the ice. CONTACT: What was the personal experience like? Squadron Leader Ferguson: It was pretty enlightening. Nowhere else on Earth is the environment so pristine and, even from only a short time on the ground at Wilkins, one gets a very clear impression of how essential it is to study, protect and preserve it in its current state. Find, like and share CONTACT Air Land & Sea on

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Lance Corporal Josh Leakey VC of The Parachute Regiment 100

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First living soldier awarded VC for action in Afghanistan A British soldier who single-handedly turned the tide of battle and prevented considerable loss of life during an assault into a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan was awarded the Victoria Cross on 26 February 2015. He is the first living soldier awarded the VC* for action in Afghanistan – and the second soldier in his family to receive the military’s highest bravery honour. Lance Corporal Josh Leakey, aged 27, of The Parachute Regiment, was deployed in Afghanistan as a member of a task force conducting operations to disrupt insurgent safe-havens and protect the main operating base in Helmand Province on 22 August 2013 when, on a combined UK/US assault led by the US Marine Corps to disrupt a key insurgent group that the force, having dismounted from their helicopters, came under accurate machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire. The command group became pinned down on the exposed forward slope of a hill and, after at-tempted to extract themselves from their position for an hour, a Marine Corps captain was shot and wounded and the group’s communications put out of action. “On this day, things just felt different,” Lance Corporal Leakey said. “The enemy were more determined, even when air support was around, they stood and they fought, which was fairly uncommon. “Thoughts going through my mind on that day were, “let’s do this right”. “There’s a man wounded, we need to get this guy sorted, and also stop more people getting wounded.” Lance Corporal Leakey, positioned on the lee of the hill, realising the seriousness of the situation and with complete disregard for his own safety, dashed across a large area of barren hillside, which was then being raked with machine gun fire. The full severity of the situation became apparent as Lance Corporal Leakey reached the top of the hill. Approximately 20 enemy had surrounded two friendly machine-gun teams and a mortar section rendering the fire support ineffective. Lance Corporal Leakey moved down the forward slope of the hill and gave first aid to the wounded officer and, despite being the most junior commander in the area, took control of the situation and initiated the casualty evacuation. Subscribe free at www.aussiecombat.com

Then, still under enemy fire, he set off up the hill to get one of the suppressed machine guns back into action. On reaching it and with rounds impacting on the frame of the gun itself, he moved it to another po-sition and began engaging the enemy. “Everyone was under fire,” he said. “It wasn’t just me. “But, we needed to be the ones giving effective fire, instead of the ones on the receiving end. “That’s why the guns had to be re-sited and realigned onto the enemy. “We had to take the fight to the enemy because they were dominating the area and our freedom of movement was being denied. “We needed to swing the tide back in our favour.” His citation states: “This courageous action spurred those around him back into the fight. For the third time and with full knowledge of the dangers, Lance Corporal Leakey exposed himself to enemy fire once more. Weighted down with more than 60lbs of equipment, he ran to the bottom of the hill, picked up the second machine gun and climbed back up the hill, around 200 metres of steep terrain. Rounds were hitting the ground around him. But, despite the danger, Josh re-sited the gun and returned fire. This was the turning point as, inspired by his actions and with a heavy weight of fire now at their disposal, the force began to fight back with renewed ferocity.” Having regained the initiative, Lance Corporal Leakey handed over the machine gun and led the extraction of the wounded officer to a point from which he could be safely evacuated. “My goals on that day were very simple, as were everyones,” he said. “When it became clear there was a casualty, our mission changed slightly so we had to deal with the casualty and we had to suppress the enemy. “I like to think we did a pretty good job of looking after the casualty and of suppressing the enemy.” Lance Corporal Leakey’s citation goes on, “Displaying gritty leadership well above that expected of his rank, Lance Corporal Leakey’s actions single-handedly regained the initiative and prevented considerable loss of life, allowing a wounded US Marine officer to be evacuated. For this act of valour, Lance Corporal Leakey is highly deserving of significant national recognition.”

The head of the Army broke the news to Lance Corporal Leakey, who was told by General Sir Nick Carter to ‘take a seat, I’ve got something to tell you’. Josh says, “I’m still stunned, absolutely stunned really, that they’ve given it to me. It’s going to take a while for it to sink in”. “If it was up to me there’d be many other people sitting here with me doing this as well. “There are so many people out there deserving, from my battalion, my regiment, from Afghan; there are so many of us who’ve done things. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really. “You don’t do anything in the Army on your own. It’s not normal being singled out; you feel un-comfortable, because everything you do is a team effort really, in my opinion. And that day was no different. “I like to think that on that day we gave a good account of ourselves, you know, fellow paratroopers cutting around the green zone doing what we do best, taking the fight to the enemy.” The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry, awarded to all ranks of the services and civilians for gallantry in the presence of the enemy. It may be awarded posthumously. Two other VCs have been awarded to British soldiers for actions in Afghanistan – Corporal Bryan Budd, also of The Parachute Regiment, who was killed in action on 20 August 2006 and Lance Corporal James Ashworth, Grenadier Guards, KIA 13 June 2012. Lance Corporal Leakey’s second cousin twice removed, Sergeant Nigel Gray Leakey, posthu-mously won the Victoria Cross for single-handedly taking on an Italian tank attack in Africa in May 1945.

* “The VC for Australia” and “The VC for New Zealand” are the highest awards for bravery in the face of an enemy in Australia and New Zealand respectively. They are not the same award as “The VC” as referenced in this story, which is a British award. The difference was promulgated in the 1990s when Australia (and New Zealand) broke away from the British system of awards. 101

CONTACT Air Land & Sea is dedicated to presenting stories, photos and video that capture the essence of serving-members’ lives, as far as possible in their own words. CONTACT Air Land & Sea blog is our internet-based headquarters where we publish daily news and other interesting, related items. We also use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube as ’embassies’ where we engage our audience, inviting them back to our headquarters. CONTACT Air Land & Sea newsletter is a free fortnightly email-based publication that draws attention to recent news stories. Its intent is to bring readers the best of the previous fortnight in a handy-reference format, linking back to the original story in our headquarters (web site) – and updating subsequent developments to older stories. CONTACT Air Land & Sea magazine is a high-quality, full-colour, features-based magazine published four times per year. Initially launched in March 2004 as a traditional paper-based magazine, it switched to digital in 2013. It is now only available by (free) subscription. Blog: www.contactairlandandsea.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/CONTACTmagazine Email: editor@militarycontact.com Mail: PO Box 3091, Minnamurra, NSW 2533

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