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THE

TECHNOLOGY EDITION


THE

TECHNOLOGY EDITION FIRST WORD

06 HIGH TECH

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TA K E T H E W E AT H ER W I T H YO U

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MX-20 TURRET

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PICTURE PAINTING A THOUSAND WORDS

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A BEFORE & AFTER VIEW

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MAKING THINGS HAPPEN

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AN OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME

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PAT R O L L I N G T H E S K I ES

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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE IN 3D

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TECHNOLOGICAL TIME SAVERS

WING COMMANDER CAT H ER I N E M AC G OWA N


ED ITO R Rebecca Quilliam C R E ATIVE D I R ECTIO N Sergeant Sam Shepherd D ES IG N Matt Chan

PH OTOG R APHY Sergeant Sam Shepherd Corporal Maria Eves Corporal Dillon Anderson Corporal Naomi James Corporal Sean Spivey Leading Aircraftman Rachel Pugh

Printed by Bluestar Private Bag 39996, Wellington Distribution Email: airforcenews@nzdf.mil.nz ISSN 1175–2327 Crown Copyright 2020

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3 0 A L O O K AT T H E F U T U R E

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A VIRTUAL REALITY

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AN AUTONOMOUS FUTURE

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VIRTUAL TRAINING

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C-130J-30 SUPER HERCULES

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A S I M U L AT ED WO R L D

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CYBER PROTECTION

2 6 F LY I N G A L O N G T H E R U N WAY

38 SPACE 40

AT WO R K A N Y W H ER E , A N Y T I M E

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GETTING THE MESSAGE THROUGH

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STA R ST R U C K

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ROCKET LAB’S AIR FORCE


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F I R S T W O R D

Kia ora koutou, and welcome to the technology issue of our Air Force News. This publication has always included updates about new equipment, research, and innovation in the RNZAF. But for the first time we are bringing you a magazine about all the ways technology reaches into every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s enabling our aircrew with next generation simulation training, integrating our fleet into the networked combat force, or tinkering with engines in the weekend, there’s a story in here that will catch your imagination. You’ll find another theme in here too – the more we talk about technology, the more we learn about our people. Technology empowers our mission, but it is always delivered through people. People who are passionate about our military air and space operations, people who are inspired by what we can achieve together, and people who want to understand technology and what it can do for us. A special shout out here to our innovators, teachers, trainers, and coaches, who help us to understand emerging technologies that sometimes they have only just learned about themselves.

All this means is that no matter what innovations come at us in the years ahead, we will be guided by our people and our shared values to ensure that technology serves our mission, and not the other way around.

We will always need to make sure we get the most benefit for our investment in technology, but when we are buying an algorithm instead of an aircraft, there’s an opportunity to move more quickly, and to learn through failure.

As New Zealand’s security interests come under pressure, that mission becomes more critical. Our adaptability and responsiveness will be tested by events in the Pacific and around the world. The wide distribution of emerging technologies creates more risk for our teams and our aircraft.

As we build the networked combat force of the future, there are more opportunities to work with our partners, learning from their experience and contributing in new ways to a shared effort.

Having technology in our own toolbox allows us to more quickly understand our environment, to more safely respond, and to act with greater precision and greater impact. When we use technology to support our community, nation and world, our size can matter less. We can challenge the limitations of volume and scale that come with being a small Air Force, and make a bigger but still very Kiwi contribution to regional and global security. To keep moving forward and achieve these benefits, we will need to think and work differently.

We must be lifelong learners, in our workplaces as well as our schools. And working with new technology is another opportunity to engage with our communities and understand what is important to all of us together. So go ahead and dive right in. Learn more about what’s going on. Share our stories with others, and keep innovating. As always, keep our people and our mission at the heart of what we do. Inā kei to mohio koe ko wai koe, I anga mai koe I hea, kei to mohio koe, kei te anga atu ki hea. If you know who you are and where you are from, then you will know where you are going.

COMMANDING OFFICER NO. 230 SQUADRON W I N G C O M M A N D E R CATH E R I N E M AC G OWA N

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H I G H T E C H A modern, agile military requires the most high tech resources available. It also requires its people to be trained to the highest standards. We take a detailed look at some of the state-of-the-art technology being used today.

STORIES 1 TA K E T H E W E AT H ER W I T H YO U 2 MX-20 TURRET 3 P I C T U R E P A I N T I N G A T H O U S A N D W O R D S 4 A B E F O R E & A F T E R V I E W 5 M A K I N G T H I N G S H A P P E N 6 A N O P P O R T U N I T Y O F A L I F E T I M E 7 P A T R O L L I N G T H E S K I E S 8 LOOKING TO THE FUTURE IN 3D 9 TECHNOLOGICAL TIME SAVERS

CONTRIBUTORS REBECCA QUILLIAM SQUADRON LEADER WIN WALKER

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1

Take the weather with you Keeping an eye on the weather is pretty easy in the cockpit of an NH90. The pilots can select to view the weather radar, which is tucked into the nose of the helicopter and tracks the conditions ahead.

The main purpose of the Honeywell Primus 701A Weather Radar is to display weather so pilots can navigate around thunderstorms. It also has ground map and sea map modes that draw the coastline or display a large ship, which can help in a search and rescue situation. An additional benefit of the radar is the ability to display rescue beacons, which gives the crew directional information to the survivor. Avionics technician Flight Sergeant (F/S) Paul Blondell said the technology is a small compact unit, with a full colour display system. “It brings up coloured information based on weather intensity and can predict turbulence. It generally gets reflections off rain and gives pilots the ability to pick out where thunder pockets might be so they can be avoided. The scale on the ground mapping mode is near perfect.” The simple system is made up of a receiver and a transmitter, and runs two channels – one to the pilot and the other to the co-pilot, he said.

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“They can set up different parameters in the weather radar and have two completely different pictures on their screens. “The radar will do a sweep across one way and display that information on one of the screens and then completely reconfigure itself to what the other screen needs and as it sweeps across in the other direction, it will paint that picture on the other side of the cockpit,” F/S Blondell said. NH90 pilot Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Hamish Park said as well as showing the weather system ahead, the radar will also show how heavy showers are going to be as he flies through them. The colour-coded system gives the pilots a range of information, he said. “We’re shown a different colour for how bad it is. If it’s really bad it’s purple.” The instrument is vital when flying through cloud because it allows the pilots to “dodge any bad weather”. “If there are any red or purple indications on the screen, that’s going to tell us that there is heavy rain, potentially some hail or a thunderstorm in there, so we need to avoid that.


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MX-20 turret The three cameras fixed to the turret on the chin of the P-3K2 Orion spin 360 degrees, have wide angle and zoom lenses, show infrared imagery and can even spot whales swimming under the ocean’s surface. “Even though the NH90 is a big 11-tonne helicopter, we still get beaten around with turbulence and it’s not designed for that. “I’ve used it flying from Waiouru to Wellington during stormy weather – we were able to avoid each heavy shower all the way down the North Island. We couldn’t have done the trip without the radar.” The radar’s sea-mapping mode was useful as it “painted a picture” of the ocean ahead, FLTLT Park said. “It will pick up the coastlines, islands or rocky outcrops. If we are cruising low level at 100 feet day or night offshore we will get advanced warning of rocky outcrops so we can avoid them. “It’s also good at picking up boats and it has been used for search and rescue in the past. The other thing it’s good for, in that maritime role, is if we are flying out to HMNZS Canterbury or an Australian frigate, we can see it on the radar and it shows us exactly where it is.”

“It’s basically the eyes of the plane,” avionics technician Sergeant (SGT) Dean Hart said.

“We can cover vast areas and record it all on camera – both high-quality still images and video from the MX-20.

It is an important instrument for the P-3K2 aircrew when they are on a search and rescue mission or on a maritime patrol operation, used to augment the other sensors on the plane including the “Mark One Eyeball” and provide a close-up view of the scene in all conditions.

“The crew can then send that footage to people in charge, like Government ministers and other authorities, who need to see the information.”

Air warfare specialists operate the cameras with a joystick from the Tacrail. The equipment is so high tech, that by using the infra-red camera, the crew can identify heat sources, such as running engines on vessels or people, in complete darkness. The cameras were a vital asset following the devastating Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, as the aircraft was able to undertake mass surveillance and estimate how much damage the city had suffered. “So when a disaster happens, like the Christchurch earthquakes or if a Pacific Island is hit by a natural disaster, a P-3K2 is sent up to do damage assessment.

There are five computers inside the equipment that are networked together. It has its own inertial navigation system and its own GPS navigation system. The whole camera platform is stabilised on electromagnets that levitate the cameras inside, so if the plane hits turbulence, the picture will still be clear. The technology will continue to be used when the P-3K2 aircraft is replace by the P-8A, which comes fitted with an upgraded version, the MX-20HD. “So just like the camera in your phone gets better and better with each new model, so does this. It will be fitted to the P-8As as well as the new Hercules C-130J-30 aircraft coming in a couple of years,” SGT Hart said.

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 9


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Picture painting a thousand words Corporal Tim Clark can interpret a computer screen filled with multiple coloured symbols and know whether they represent potentially hostile or friendly groups of ships, aircraft, or significant landmarks.

The system he employs comes under the realm of Tactical Data Links (TDLs) and is called Link 16, a capability available on the P-3K2 Orion and vital to future Air, Navy and Army platforms. The information transmitted via Link 16 includes Command and Control, and Situation Awareness data, which creates a holistic tactical picture. “Link 16 provides detailed information on the location of anything significant detected by the P-3K2’s sensors, which could include ships, aircraft or land contacts. This can provide situational awareness for soldiers who may be working in a close air support role, providing them with the location of an enemy force and friendly units,” Corporal (CPL) Clark said. “All of the symbols shown are used by New Zealand’s allies and are defined in NATO and US publications. Certain icons determine what the object is – airborne or maritime – and something as simple as a different colour will represent their potential to be hostile or friendly.

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“For example potentially suspicious or hostile contacts are coloured red. Neutral contacts are green and friendly contacts are blue. “The shapes and colours of the symbols make it easy to visualise what is happening quickly and accurately. It’s a lot easier and faster to look at a picture of an operating environment as opposed to using radios to contact different units to find out where they are,” he said. “Link 16 enables aircraft and ship computer systems to communicate independently. It’s really beneficial when working in a joint coalition environment where there are operators from other nations who speak different languages. Providing a visualisation of the operating environment enables us to get over that barrier; a picture paints a thousand words.” After the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016, Link 16 was used by visiting American, Canadian and Australian forces to coordinate where they and our helicopters were.

“It was a really good way to coordinate helicopter flights in an area that had limited Air Traffic Control. They were able to look at the operating picture and understand where all of the aircraft were and ensure everyone kept well apart. “TDLs are mainly used in high intensity environments where a huge amount of information and activity needs to be exchanged, such as the South China Sea and the Arabian Gulf; areas where nations work together to counter the tactics employed by potential pirates,” CPL Clark said. “It also enables everyone to communicate in a common language – interoperability is a huge part of current and future operations. Link 16 and future iterations of TDLs will be used to exchange tactical and command and control information with our allies so that we all share a common near-real-time tactical picture.”


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A before and after view When a natural disaster strikes, the Geo-Spatial and Image Analysis team stay glued to their screens to offer the best support they can to the people living in the damaged area. The team is sent imagery from the aircraft at the scene, which could be either a P-3K2, C-130, Seasprite, or NH90 helicopter. They analyse the data and provide information that will tell the appropriate agency or Government where help is needed most urgently. A Geospatial Imagery Analyst* said they add metadata to the imagery, such as geo-referencing information, which links the image to its location on Earth, before sending it to Joint Forces Headquarters (HQJFNZ). “When we get imagery back from HADR (Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief) areas there is a standardised process that we follow that shows us what level of damage has been done,” she said.

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“In order to get the damage assessment, we’ll use other aerial imagery that we might already have, such as satellite imagery from Google Earth and we compare the images to see what is missing and what should have been there.” Recently Cyclone Harold caused carnage to Vanuatu and Fiji. Immediately after the storm hit, a P-3K2 was tasked with priority lists of places that officials wanted to see. “We put together a pre-mission package for them before they flew out, which included an aerial shot to help them find the location in amongst everything. All the geo-reference points were loaded onto the aircraft so the camera could point to where we needed it to. “When that all came in we processed it that night so we could get it out the next day to HQJFNZ, which would then pass it onto other Government agencies, so they could provide their own aid to the worst-affected areas.” That process was also followed after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, the analyst said.

“The aircraft flew down and tried to cover as much as they could and we identified the worst-hit areas in order to help command make the decision as to the best course of action.” Last year the team was preparing to receive imagery from flooding in Southland when Whakaari/White Island erupted. The P-3K2 was retasked while it was returning from the South Island to the volcano, she said. “We received all the imagery afterwards. We were trying to process bridges taken out by the flooding as well as the destruction from the eruption on the same night – which was quite interesting. “It’s quite rewarding to know you’re able to help and you’ve done something that is worthwhile. Bad things happen, so it’s good to be able to help when they do.”

*Cannot be named for security reasons


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Making things happen There is so much to learn from No. 230 Squadron’s Engineering and Production Cell, but one of the coolest parts of the unit is when the personnel work out and invent solutions to problems that come their way. The team can be approached by any Air Force trade with a request to help fill a gap in their Communication, Information Systems capability. “We will research what we need to implement and go through the different processes around getting change approvals, and then we will create what they need and provide ongoing support to it,” Corporal (CPL) Joel Dickinson said. “There are a lot of challenges you come across where it takes a lot of ingenuity to come up with a solution. If you love computers, networking, coding and cyber security, it’s definitely a great place to work.”

N H 9 0 C O M M U N I CATI O N S

RADIO FREQUENCY OVER FIBRE

No. 3 Squadron asked for a piece of equipment that would allow them to be connected to the Defence network from anywhere in New Zealand.

The Communications team was being restricted in the distance they could connect their radios, because their Coax cable had a limit of about 100 metres before the signal quality started degrading.

The team created a case with several communications devices inside that automatically connected to a variety of different networks, such as 3G/4G, landline internet and satellite internet. A laptop is provided so the aircrew only have to attach the case to a power source, press a switch and they will have access to the NZDF network. “I can’t think of a spot in New Zealand where that wouldn’t work,” CPL Dickinson said. The device also had a normal landline internet, so if the crew landed at an airport, they could plug the equipment in and it would work, he said.

The solution was to replace the Coax with fibre-optic cables, which could work up to two kilometres long and still retain clarity. The team fixed a converter to each end of the cable, at the antenna and the radio, which converted it from a Coax signal into fibre, into light. That process enabled the team to run the fibre-optic cable as long as they wanted.

“The feedback we’ve had is that it has been a great success and they want more of them.”

We took a look at a couple of the projects the team has worked on.

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An opportunity of a lifetime Aircraft technician Corporal Keith Peden has taken up a challenge of a lifetime, accepting a secondment to work with America’s Cup contender Emirates Team New Zealand. He tells Air Force News how his Air Force training has well-equipped him to work on an ocean-faring vessel. What type of work are you doing at Emirates Team New Zealand? I’m working as a composite technician at the Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) boat-building facility where my role is to fabricate various elements of the AC75 (America’s Cup 75 class) yachts. The majority of my time at ETNZ has been focussed on the construction of our second race boat, which is tracking along well.     What kind of materials are you working with? A broad range of materials are used in the workshop to achieve the desired outcome in the final product. Although the boat itself is constructed from carbon fibre, many different materials and techniques are utilised throughout all tasks to ensure jobs are carried out correctly and efficiently. This often calls on wood working, machining or metal working skills before any composite fabrication takes place. Construction materials include a variety of pre-impregnated and dry fabrics, adhesives and core materials.  These materials all have their own specialist processes and usage in the final design to ensure optimum performance.

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What training did the Air Force give you that meant you were appropriate for the secondment? During my time in the Air Force I’ve been a member of a few different technical trade groups and have tried to make the most of any training opportunities along the way. This has allowed me to gain aircraft maintenance experience across a range of disciplines and is complemented by specialist composite training in New Zealand and abroad. Outside of Air Force work life I carry out extramural studies and regularly toil over engineering projects of my own. These experiences have given me a wide range of skills to call on when I need them, and much like my employment within the Air Force where I can perform multiple roles, my training and experience gives ETNZ the same opportunity to have a hybrid employee with mechanical and fabrications skills. Why did you accept the secondment? Choosing to second to ETNZ instead of taking extended leave or departing the service provided me with the security I needed to make the most of this opportunity. It was a bit of a gamble for my partner and I to up and leave our home and jobs to move to a different city on a whim but I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and would be worth the sacrifice.

Technically speaking, my time in this role has broadened my horizons into the wider composite universe in a way that supplements my Air Force training. This is being achieved through networking with a wide pool of experienced personnel and sharing techniques to accelerate my development as a tradesman. Gaining practical exposure to more intensive and advanced engineering projects has increased the depth of my skills and has given me more confidence in my ability to carry out jobs of a larger scale and complexity on our aircraft. By returning to the Air Force workforce as a more practiced tradesman and enlightened Junior Non-Commissioned Officer I hope to have the experience to realise and deliver enhanced capability for my team and increase the operational effectiveness of the Air Force. Any advice you would like to pass on? Secondment postings are a privilege that do not come up often and will require you to do a considerable amount of ground work to setup and maintain if you are starting from scratch. If you are interested in doing something similar, I encourage you to build on the momentum generated from secondments in recent years and get out there to chase these opportunities yourself. More information on secondment policy can be found in DFO 3, Part 11, Chapter 6. 

What sorts of things are you learning by working in the corporate environment, and what knowledge/ processes are you able to pass on? Changing back to a corporate working environment has been a valuable reality check that has been hugely beneficial and introduced a wider perspective to my attitudes on work and life. It has been my experience that the ETNZ boat-building crew operate incredibly effectively and have a real commitment to the cause that I would like to inspire more of in the Air Force environment.

RIGHT:

CPL Keith Peden outside the Emirates Team New Zealand HQ at Auckland’s Viaduct


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Patrolling the skies Uninhabited Aerial Systems (UAS) are becoming an increasing feature in the skies above Air Force bases. With an optical zoom and infrared capability, allowing for night operations, some of the many uses the technology have are security patrols and checking for risks to personnel, such as sourcing hotspots for firefighters.

They are also used to collect information for investigation, including aircraft incidents, Commanding Officer Operations Squadron, Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Ivan Green said. “After the P-3K2 Orion landed and several tyres burst, we used the UAS to follow the landing path it had taken and record skid marks and swerves the plane took for the crash investigators. It’s a great piece of kit to do that.” Ongoing building developments have also benefitted from the technology, including the new gym at Base Auckland, which had progression photos taken during each stage of the build.

LEFT

(L–R) UAS operators LAC Brent Setter, LAC Leonie Coleman Avila RIGHT

Thermal imagery of Base Auckland’s flight line taken by a SkyRanger UAS

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“Our UAS has also assisted other Government agencies. We’ve done some flying for Fire and Emergency New Zealand capturing house fire training.”

One of the big drivers for getting the UAS was for security patrols on the base and at the Kaipara Air Weapons Range, where the UAS capabilities can be used for the gathering of evidence, SQNLDR Green said. “We operate commercial and military devices, some of which are more capable at standing up to the wind and rain out at Kaipara. “When we need the area for machine gun training for Seasprite or NH90 crews, or bombing practice by the P-3K2 Orions, we can clear the range out there quickly with the UAS. It saves an aircraft needing to fly over the range to do the same thing. This saves flying hours and costs associated with aircraft clearing the range.”


The team operating the UAS works closely with the base Air Traffic Control to ensure the airspace is clear of aircraft. The operators mirror a number of processes used on manned aircraft, including authorisations, crew currency recording and flight planning. And training involves a theory and practical element that is provided by an external organisation to Civil Aviation Authority standards. “Personnel have to pass theory and practical exams as well as maintaining UAS flying currency. We look forward to seeing where this technology can take us and adding to the capability we have so far developed,” SQNLDR Green said.

“For example with our Survival, Evade, Resist and Escape training, we gave the unit responsible one of these platforms, a UAS Remote Pilot and a list of things we thought they could use it for and they came back with an even bigger list of outputs. “They used it for things like testing the effectiveness of the students ground to air signals for attracting aircraft attention. They were also good during the solo stage of the training, where, instead of physically going in and checking on the trainees, they sent in a drone to ensure they were okay.

“ People are thinking of really innovative ways of how to use the technology to save time and resources, enhance safety and enhance effect.” – Squadron Leader Ivan Green

Using UAS to inspect aircraft is another area being trialled. The intent is to reduce the amount of times personnel are required to work at heights. AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 17


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FGOFF Jack Hercus with a 3D printer at Base Ohakea RIGHT

App technology used by Logistics staff

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Looking to the future in 3D Members of Maintenance Wing at Base Ohakea have been using 3D printing to save the Air Force plenty of time and money. The Stratasys F120 Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printer is used for a variety of purposes and uses extruded plastic to manufacture components, engineer Flying Officer (FGOFF) Jack Hercus said. “In the future, the ultimate goal would be to 3D print more aircraft parts. This has the potential to solve a lot of our supply problems particularly when the aircraft is away from the base on deployment. “We have a long way to go until this is a feasible option. We’re just dipping our toes in and going along for the ride so that we’re ready when the technology gets to the point where we can do that.”

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The team at Avionics Ohakea have been identifying opportunities to 3D print aircraft parts to save cost. One example is the NH90 PMC Battery Casings, which are now flying on aircraft. The printer is also used to manufacture templates and mock-ups in the machine shop that aid in the manufacture and repair of aircraft components using traditional machining methods, FGOFF Hercus said. During the recent Covid-19 outbreak, members of Maintenance Wing used the 3D printer to go through a number of design iterations to quickly manufacture personal protective equipment prototypes. Had the final design been required, the 3D printer was ready to produce up to 35 eyewear frames each day. “Instead of going through the whole machining process, which could take weeks to make the part and then test fit it, to find out it doesn’t quite work, you can 3D print it in just a few hours and have a physical piece that can be tested first.”

Companies in the aeronautical industry are beginning to design components specifically for 3D printing. GE Aviation has a fleet of over 40 3D metal printers they are using to manufacture fuel nozzles. They are about 25% lighter and are manufactured in a single piece whereas previously they were made from around 20 parts that had to be welded together. “It seems like the industry is moving more and more towards manufacturing components on 3D printers. This is because you can print complex parts in a single piece that would not be possible with traditional manufacturing methods.” By becoming familiar with and employing new manufacturing equipment like the 3D printer and other Computer Numerical Controlled lathes and mills, Maintenance Wing technicians are able to stay up to date with new technology, FGOFF Hercus said.


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Technological time savers Logistics staff are moving away from paper-based records and are letting technology do the work – saving the Defence Force thousands of work hours each year. “The combination of apps and AIT (Automated Identification Technology) has increased our productivity and made our work more enjoyable,” says Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Win Walker, Officer in Charge of Logistics Support Squadron at Base Auckland. Until now, equipment was managed by logistics personnel using desktop, manual or paper-based systems. This takes time. A smarter way of managing equipment was to use mobile devices, apps and AIT. AIT uses barcodes and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to make material machine readable.

Logistics personnel could then be where they need to be rather than entering in data at their desks. The result was staff getting out of the office more, checking the condition of stock and not being distracted by data entry.

For the business, the use of mobile technology and AIT has provided greater assurance around the availability and serviceability of spares, which has ensured greater platform availability.

“The team can see the real benefits and the project is achieving what it set out to do and more,” SQNLDR Walker says.

There have also been other unexpected benefits, SQNLDR Walker said.

The biggest benefit has been the speed, simplicity and accuracy of completing tasks. “Some stocktakes, which used to take up to three hours, now only takes 10 minutes. It also means we’ve become dramatically more compliant, with less input.” Through the use of mobile apps 19,000 hours have been saved across NZDF last year alone, with more significant amounts expected to be saved this year. This has been realised via seven apps (with two more to be released very soon) that have been rolled out and supported across all of the NZDF Services, with about 460 users.

“We’re able to use the linear barcodes in core logistics programmes – which is further reducing our data entry and we have introduced freight tracking apps into the Defence Force apps store and are making the devices a better business platform. “We have also introduced a number of pre-configured apps including the Kuehne + Nagel freight tracking app to give us a fit for purpose business platform.” The team continues to think about how to integrate emerging technologies, he said. “With so many exciting prospects in various stages of development, the overall call from everyone is ‘give us more apps’,” SQNLDR Walker said.

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S I M U L A T I O N

Training in a virtual world is a safer and cheaper way to teach personnel about the kit they will be using in real life. Come behind the simulators to find out how realistic the training is.

STORIES 1 A VIRTUAL REALITY 2 VIRTUAL TRAINING 3 A S I M U L A T E D W O R L D

CONTRIBUTORS REBECCA QUILLIAM CHARLENE WILLIAMSON

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1

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A virtual reality

Virtual training

A portion of the training for new helicopter loadmasters at Base Ohakea involves using virtual reality headsets. The images are representations of the insides of NH90 or A109 helicopters. The purpose is so loadmasters can learn certain procedures in a safe environment before practicing them in real life, Flight Sergeant (F/S) Adrian Morgan said. “It reduces the amount of training needed to be done in a real aircraft, so it makes it safer as well as a little bit cheaper.” The students find it easy to learn in virtual reality because they have people close by and it’s easy to talk with them, he said. “The instructors say they are definitely getting a better product out of the training, by using it.” The next step with the technology is to set up a formal system of linking the loadmaster trainer with the A109 simulator, F/S Morgan said. “By having the A109 simulator and the HLM sim in the same building, we have been able to prove that we can do it. 22 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227

“It will allow the loadmasters and the pilots to do training together, which helps with communication between the crew.” Corporal (CPL) Jenn Harley has recently completed her virtual reality training for her helicopter loadmaster qualifications. “When you put the goggles on you can see the training areas of Ohakea and Raumai. We typically start at Raumai and you look out and see the coast and all the paddocks and look down and see trees, as well as inside the helicopter.” The procedural trainer was a great tool to use in the initial loadmaster training as it was a good medium between going flying and practicing in the classroom, CPL Harley said. “It’s where we perfect our procedural knowledge, which is our basic patter and the process of how to do things before we learn in the helicopter.   “In the simulation we can pause to get teaching points or clarify something we’re not sure of – that way I can get the information without the helicopter burning fuel.”

Tucked into the Ground Training at Base Woodbourne, the Logistics Training Squadron is using virtual reality to teach incoming Air Force mechanics. For close to two and a half years the Virtual Maintenance Trainer (VMT) and Marshalling Simulator have been used for both avionics and aircraft trades. The VMT is a software-based Aircraft Emulator and provides accurate operation of aircraft and avionics systems. This allows users to gain hands-on experience with the systems without the need to be in a real aircraft. Avionics instructor Corporal (CPL) Anthony Lings said the VMT is effective as it can provide the same resource to multiple users at the same time, while running different scenarios. “It provides a safe environment in which students can learn system operations while learning the skills of following procedures,” he said. VMT also has the capability to run assessments, which allows students and instructors to gauge competency and ability to follow instructions.


The Marshalling Simulator uses virtual reality goggles to provide an immersive simulation of an aircraft flight line, and allows trainees to experience marshalling an aircraft, with associated hazards without the need to utilise actual aircraft. “The marshalling simulator is effective as it can immerse students in an environment where they will one day be working. It provides realistic rendering of landscapes and has audio and visual stimulus to aid in learning, while also being fun,” said CPL Lings. The goggles are high quality products with good visual accuracy. This allows students to feel as though they have an aircraft coming towards them, while still being able to look around their environment for hazards and other aircraft. “The technology also enables different aircraft to be used. Simulations can be made using multiple aircraft including the C-130H, P-3K2, P-8A, or B757,” said CPL Lings. Nothing will beat hands-on experience, but the technology being used at Base Woodbourne is allowing students to get close to the real thing using platforms that many are already familiar with. AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 23


3

A simulated world

The Air Force’s simulators are a vital training tool for pilots as they learn their trade. Base Ohakea is home to simulators for the T-6C Texan planes and A109 helicopters. A third simulator, for the NH90 helicopter, will be installed this year. Base Auckland houses a simulator for the SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopters .

Flight Sergeant (F/S) Adrian Morgan said the Texan simulator is used by trainee pilots who are learning how to fly an aircraft before testing out their training in a real one. “It reduces the risk to aircrew, it’s less of a training risk and also it saves time and money.” The impressive technology allowed students to feel like they were sitting and flying in a real aircraft, he said. Each different simulator has different databases. The Texan is looked after by CAE, which has its own database with imagery showing airports and buildings. The one for the A109 simulator is looked after by Beca and the Air Force. The airports the trainee pilots see look the same as the ones they will eventually fly into, including the airfield at Base Ohakea. The simulators show imagery from anywhere in the world, however, only some places show detailed imagery, F/S Morgan said.

LEFT

T-6C Texan Simulator RIGHT

SH-2G(I) Seasprite Simulator

24 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227

“The A109 has Ohakea, of course and Wellington and Whanganui. The Texan has its own airfields as well as Ohakea.” Ohakea’s simulators are also used for Pilot Continuation Training, such as carrying out emergency scenarios, he said. They are made up of different sets of computers, including Image Generation computers that create the image on the screen. “Then there is the database that contains all the visuals that you see, which we can work on and change. There is also the Instructor Operator Station, which is what the person who is running the simulator uses to control it. “The technology is so realistic that if you’re not used to lack of motion, when you see the screen move, you feel like you should be moving. Because your ears sense that you’re not moving then some people can feel unwell. You get really immersed in it,” F/S Morgan said.


Synthetic Training Systems manager at No. 6 Squadron Dave Carroll said that unlike other Air Force simulators, the SH-2G(I) Seasprite simulator was a full-mission unit. “Inside the dome is a replica of a Seasprite helicopter cockpit. It has all the controls, instruments and electronic equipment exactly the same as the actual aircraft.” The simulator also has the same sensors as the helicopter, including its radar, the forward-looking infrared camera, weapons and electronic surveillance equipment, and all fully simulated, Mr Carroll said. Inside the unit there are positions for a pilot, observer and back seat helicopter loadmaster or instructor. “It sits on six fully articulated hydraulic legs giving six directions of movement about two metres in the air. It can either operate off-motion, where it’s sitting down on its stops and only the visuals move, or up on motion when it moves in sync with the visuals. It’s a fairly big beast.

“Everything you can do in the helicopter, you can do in the simulator, including full tactical mission training – in fact we can do more because we can train all the emergency scenarios to their conclusions,” he said.

The NH90 helicopter simulator is the most recent to join the Air Force and will finish being installed at No. 3 Squadron this month. The first airman will take it for its first test run in October.

The aircrew is able to learn how to deal with engine fires, engine failures and control malfunctions such as tail rotor failures, which can’t be realistically or safely exercised in a real aircraft.

Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Craig Kenny said the Canadian-based CAE team was unable to travel to New Zealand to install the simulator because of travel restrictions, so the company’s New Zealand team have taken on the work, joined by two Air Force avionics technicians to help.

As well as imagery of the New Zealand landscape, the simulator also has imagery of the Royal New Zealand Navy ships that the helicopters can land on, Mr Carroll said. “We can even modify the sea state and weather to make it rougher and match conditions crew can expect when landing on a real ship at sea in both day and night. “It makes their life a little more difficult and requires a bit more precision.”

“It’s really good for the local CAE and Air Force technicians to be involved right from the start and through to testing.” It’s a fixed base simulator and has the same visual database as the Texan and Seasprite models, SQNLDR Kenny said. “We’ve also developed other urban areas like Wellington, some container villages and pinnacle landing sites, on the tops of mountains, where there will be small tented camps on the ridgeline where NH90s can land.”

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 25


26 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227


F L Y I A L O T R U N W

N N H A

G G E Y

Flight Sergeant Dean Hart has spent the past decade building a jet dragster vehicle to break the New Zealand land speed record using the engine from an old Air Force Strikemaster and a “bunch of junk”. In roughly 30 seconds on the runway at Base Ohakea, he smashed it.

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 27


His average speed over two one mile-long runs came to 363.436km/h, beating the previous record of 355.485km/h. During the second run, he reached an impressive top speed of 473km/h. This was the first time Flight Sergeant (F/S) Hart, 39, an avionics technician at Base Auckland, had attempted the record and after the record-breaking run he said the drive was more difficult than the test runs. “The car was wavering a little bit. There wasn’t a lot of wind but the car was moving around a lot more than in the test runs. However, we reached a lot higher speed than the test runs as well.” He is now the proud possessor of the Castrol Trophy for setting the New Zealand land speed record.

28 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227

The record-breaking car is powered by a Rolls Royce Viper 535 engine from a BAC Strikemaster aircraft, which runs on aviation jet fuel. The car was built by F/S Hart, mostly in his garage, and by members of the Whenuapai Motorsports Club. “The chassis is 30 years old, the motor is 60 years old,” F/S Hart said. He sourced the engine from Pioneer Aero in Ardmore, who had removed it out of a former Air Force Strikemaster 3670. A cheap dragster chassis was purchased on Ebay and the back half of it was rebuilt around the jet engine. Ninety per cent of the vehicle was built from second-hand parts. “To build a fast car like this you would normally spend upwards of $100,000 to $200,000, but because we used a bunch of old junk it was relatively cheap,” he said.

“It’s got magnesium body panels with a chromolly chassis – which is like bicycle tubing. Sioux helicopters were built out of the same stuff, so it’s aircraft grade tubing. “The tyres are Goodyear land speed racing tyres, they are custom-made in America and have a high speed rating – about 480km speed racing.” The tyres spin at 9000G on the rim of the wheel. To put that into perspective, 1G is on earth and shooting a rocket into space is about 5G. “So there’s huge forces on them. One gram of rubber on the tyre weighs nine kilos.” F/S Hart’s safety gear was also top of the line – a five layered Nomex fire suit, a Hans head restraint device a helmet with a fire skirt on it and fireproof gloves and boots.


“ After the runs I’m knackered. Although it’s only a 20 second run, I get so jacked up while driving that afterwards a massive fatigue hits. I get quite dehydrated in the fire suit and when I’m out in the sun, it’s like wearing a sofa, it’s so hot.” – Flight Sergeant Dean Hart

Over the decade of working on the vehicle, F/S Hart was able to call on the expertise of his Air Force colleagues. “I’ve got mates in Safety and Surface who painted the car, I’m an electronic technician and did all the electrical work and GSE (Ground Support Equipment) guys helped me out with things like brakes and putting the tyres on.” He was also able to tap into the skills of some long-service personnel who had worked on the Strikemasters when they were part of the Air Force’s strike capability. “The combined knowledge we have here was enough to build a jet car. Between GSE, the tech trades and the old guys with their jet engine knowledge – we know every piece of that car in detail, even though it’s a car, not an aircraft.”

F/S DEAN HART’S JET DRAGSTER: DIMENSIONS:

TYRES:

9m in length, 1.6m wide

Goodyear 28” x 10” -15 rear and Goodyear 22” x 4” -17 front

W E I G HT:

746kg

FUEL USE:

CHASSIS:

30L per run

Chromolly tubing with magnesium bodywork

PARACHUTES:

FUEL TYPE:

Two parachutes produce 3G of braking force

Aviation jet fuel

0–100km/h: 1.9 secs

ENGINE:

0–300km/h 7.6 secs

Rolls Royce Viper 535 from a BAC Strikemaster aircraft

TOP SPEED:

473km/h

TH R U ST:

3,400 pounds

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 29


30 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227


A L O O K A T T H E F U T U R E While our personnel keep up to date with the latest technology, our eyes are always looking ahead at what a future Air Force will look like.

STORIES 1 AN AUTONOMOUS FUTURE 2 C - 1 3 0 J - 3 0 S U P E R H E R C U L E S 3 CYBER PROTECTION

CONTRIBUTORS R A S S

EBECCA QUILLIAM NDREW ROONEY QUADRON LEADER DAVE TIMBS ERGEANT SAM NIKOLOFF

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 31


1

An autonomous future Do you envisage a future where items are delivered on time and with little-to-no intervention from people? Staff based within Logistics Support Squadron at Base Auckland have come up with a potential solution through the great Kiwi number 8 wire mentality. A prototype of an autonomous vehicle is being evaluated at the base, with a view to use scaled-up versions for the majority of internal distribution of stores. This will potentially save thousands of work hours across the Defence Force. The vehicle is envisioned to be used to deliver items around camps and bases, expediting deliveries, reducing costs and providing a platform to teach about automation, Sergeant (SGT) Sam Nikoloff said. “We run a two-to-three hourly milk run, distributing stores across various locations on the base. The issue is, often things are needed more urgently. “We did 42,045 transactions in Whenuapai last year, many of which were urgent, so that meant that somebody had to hop onto a bike or jump in their vehicle to make a special delivery. We knew we had a long-running, stubborn problem that needed a solution.”

32 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227

After a few different options were proposed, SGT Nikoloff looked into driverless technology, however, small delivery vehicles weren’t quite fit for purpose. With the support of an outside vendor and some carefully crafted specifications, a concept came to life. The Autonomous Land Vehicle (ALV) is a fully autonomous, batteryoperated vehicle able to deliver a package up to 3kg at 30km/h. “The aim is that the ALV will use a camera to follow a painted line and GPS geofencing to drive a route from Mainstore to Flight Stores, sticking to base speed limits and correct road use,” SGT Nikoloff said. “When it arrives at its destination, it will send a text message to the Flight Store to retrieve the item.” After eight months of promoting the idea and refining the vehicle, SGT Nikoloff pitched the ALV to a recent ‘Dragons’ Den’ Air Force Innovation Challenge.

He told the panel of judges that the time to deliver packages around the base could reduce from three hours to three minutes. The panel, which included the Chief of Air Force, the Chief Engineer and GirlBoss New Zealand founder Alexia Hilbertidou, awarded SGT Nikoloff the top prize and approved a two-month trial to verify it could be operated safely on base. During the award presentation, it was noted that the design was “what the future looks like”.


“ This little AVL started out doing jumps, wheelies and flips as a remote-controlled car, but by the time we got through with it, it now focusses on delivering small aircraft parts.” – Sergeant Sam Nikoloff

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 33


2

C-130J-30 Super Hercules While it may look the same to some, the C-130J-30 is a very different aircraft to the C-130H. The most obvious differences are the six bladed composite prop and an increase of 4.5 metres in the cargo compartment length (two additional pallet stations), but looking further there are a lot of other changes and new technology that makes this a very different aircraft.

CREW COMPOSITION

Due to technology, the C-130J-30 will be operated with two pilots and two loadmasters. ENGINES

New generation AE2100D engines that offer greater power and overall performance with reduced fuel consumption. Controlled via a Full Authority Digital Engine Control system. 24% more power on take-off, 19% more thrust at cruise and 15% lower fuel consumption. M ATE R I A L S

While not a composite aircraft, the C-130J-30 utilises composite materials in areas where beneficial to do so – the propellers and some flight controls. I NTEG R ATI O N

All systems and equipment is interconnected, even to the extent of having electronic circuit breakers. DOMESTIC TECHNOLOGY

The C-130J-30 comes with a toilet (no longer a bucket) and a microwave oven in the galley. 34 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227


H E A D U P D I S P L AY

W I D E BA N D C I V I LI A N SATC O M

Each pilot has a full digital Head Up Display (HUD) that displays all key information while allowing the pilots to keep their heads up and looking outside the aircraft. The full cockpit, including the HUD is night vision imaging system compatible.

Using the Honeywell Jetwave system via the INMARSAT system, to achieve high speed data transfer. Combined with wifi distribution, this will allow information dissemination to the passengers and will also permit transmission of video and data to ground units.

R EG U L ATO RY C O M P LI A N C E

The block 8.1 variant of the C-130J-30 comes fully compliant with all modern airspace regulatory regulations and modern navigation and communication standards. ELECTRO OPTICS/INFRARED

The new generation Wescam MX-20, high definition, digital system with Thermal Image, Colour Continuous Zoom, Daylight Spotter, Short Wave Infrared Spotter and Laser. RANGEFINDER

Can be displayed and controlled at both the co-pilot station and at the augmented station.

ENHANCED CARGO HANDLING SYSTEM

Provides for improved airdrop accuracy, loading and loadmaster safety. Electrically actuated locks and restraints, underfloor winch, loadmaster console (integrated into aircraft systems) and flip-to-stow roller conveyors. M I LITA RY SYSTE M S

Full communication suite, military grade navigation systems, armour, role equipment, Link-16, enhanced self-protection system and Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures to support military roles and tasks.

EXPLOSION SUPPRESSANT FOAM

Fitted in all tanks (including aux tanks) to reduce risk of fuel tanks exploding if aircraft encounters small arms fire when operating in high threat environments. S I M U L ATO R

A full motion, Level D simulator that will also serve as the procedural trainer and maintenance trainer. Totally electrically actuated and has positions for the two pilots, loadmaster, augmented crew station and up to three instructors. ENHANCED LIFE CENTRE WING SECTION

A strengthened and improved design allows the aircraft to be operated and flown for 75,000 hrs before any work is required on the centre wing section. Improved structure and systems to allow ramp operations up to 250Â knots.

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 35


3

Cyber protection December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk. Sixty-six years later, on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the moon assisted by one of the first computers ever used in aviation. The Lunar Lander of Apollo 11 had a few thousand lines of code, whereas the most modern aircraft in the United States Air Force inventory today, the F-35 Lightning II has about fifteen million lines of code. There is a growing reliance on software to manage the increasing complexity of flight and mission management data. Each component that uses a digital interface requires coding, from the actuators in control surfaces to the Human Machine Interface (HMI) in the flight deck and the support systems they rely on. Cyberspace is the medium that spans across all warfare domains and is an essential force enabler/multiplier. Our ability to secure our own cyber terrain underpins our capability to maintain freedom of manoeuvre in a medium that is fundamental to delivering military aerospace operations. Traditional threats to military aviation have been kinetic in the form of antiaircraft ordnance, physical sabotage or electronic interference. This therefore implies that traditional threats must have geographical proximity.

36 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227

With the reliance on software in aviation today, this is no longer true. The aviation security landscape has changed. A physical security only mind-set for protecting aviation platforms and systems is outdated. Threats to military air operations are no longer just kinetic and geographically specific, but are constant both while at home and deployed. Cyber-enabled threats to our organisation continue to grow in capability, scope and scale. Issue motivated groups, criminals, and malicious state-backed actors target the NZDF due to our privileged access to the Five Eyes partnership, technology development and commitment to an international rules based order. They seek to gain access to our networks to acquire information about our people, capability and intent. The potential damage caused by malicious cyber actors includes capability degradation or loss, reputational damage, loss of nationally significant information and disruption to operationally critical systems. Protection of our data and networks is crucial. We need to be able to identify threats, protect our data, detect intrusions, respond and recover from any cyber-attack.

In April of 2019, the RNZAF Directorate of Communication and Information Systems (CIS) established a small cell to scope, conceptualise and develop Air Force Cyber. The Air Force cyber cell is currently working alongside the Defence Technology Agency, NZDF Office of Director Cyber, the Defence Cyber Integrated Project Team and single services. This collaboration ensures the RNZAF both leverages off and contributes to the wider NZDF Cyber community and provides a scaled cyber capability commensurate with the Air Forces’ need. The Air Force Cyber Plan (available on an RNZAF internal document)) has recently been published and articulates how the Air Force is approaching the cyber problem set. We will soon be looking for cyberminded individuals to build and operationalise military aviation cyber. Watch this space…


AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 37


38 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227


S P A C E We look to the stars and know that our future is firmly planted in the space domain. Meet the people who work with objects out of this world.

STORIES 1 AT WO R K A N Y W H ER E A N Y T I M E 2 G E T T I N G T H E M E S S A G E T H R O U G H 3 STA R ST R U C K 4 R O C K E T L A B ’ S A I R F O R C E

CONTRIBUTOR REBECCA QUILLIAM

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 39


1

At work anywhere, anytime A small team of communications specialists faced extreme conditions during the Australian bushfire disaster earlier this year when they deployed with the Defence Force team supporting the local firefighting effort. “We were situated out of Nowra, about an hour’s drive south of Sydney. When we arrived we couldn’t see across the apron, which is how thick the smoke was,” Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Anthony Gaskin said. “There was one day that was 40˚C out of nowhere and more smoke rolled in with it.” But it wasn’t the smoke that affected the team’s satellite dishes, it was the amount of water the firefighters were using.

40 |  AIR FORCE NEWS #227

“All the water evaporated in the heat and contributed to thunderstorms and rain, which did affect the satellites. Initially we were using a high frequency band and we ended up having to change to a lower frequency because the higher one kept cutting out.” LAC Gaskin was also deployed when a P-3K2 Orion was sent to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea. “I was based at Kadena Air Base, Japan and was involved with communicating with the aircraft and providing the information back to New Zealand using one of our satellite dishes.” LAC Gaskin was able to speak directly with the aircrew, so received the information in real time. There was a delay of a couple of minutes getting the information to New Zealand, “but it was still pretty quick”, he said. Sergeant (SGT) Dave Wassenaar said they used encryption at every level and the higher the classifications, the higher the level of encryption.

“Anyone who listens in on the frequency just hears a garbled mess. On the IT side we use VPN tunnels that reach through the internet so people can’t look into those tunnels to see what the data is.” Weight saving is a big consideration in taking satellites on missions. The dishes are made from composite material and the carry case is carbon fibre. “Before these ones we relied on old C-band dishes and they were huge metal and fibreglass constructions that weighed a tonne and took a big team a while to put them together, whereas these can all be put together by one or two people in under an hour.” The satellites were designed to work in the middle of nowhere, SGT Wassenaar said. “We often take them out on training exercises and see if we can be selfsufficient for 72 hours in the event of a national disaster. In under 30 minutes a satellite can be set up and ready to go.”


LEFT

Deployable satellites at Base Auckland RIGHT

CPL Jordan Morris

2

Getting the message through “The information we are dealing with comes from the aircraft and what their mission is entailing,” Corporal (CPL) Jordan Morris from the Air Operations and Communications Centre said. “It might be tracking vessels and the aircrew would be sending through contact information. It gives that operational picture back through to headquarters and to whoever is coordinating on the New Zealand side.” The team works with two systems, one satellite based that is focussed on target-specific areas, and the other is high frequency that covers the Pacific and west coast of the Americas. The satellites the Centre deals with are in geostationary orbit around the earth, about 35,000km into space.

The technology uses a “mirror effect” called refraction in the atmosphere to get radio signals across a vast area, CPL Morris said. “A layer in the atmosphere acts essentially as a mirror, so we can communicate beyond the horizon, in the same way you can see around a corner by using a mirror. “We’re essentially doing the same thing with radio communications where the transmissions would be refracted down from the ionosphere and we are able to get the signal beyond the horizon.” The Centre’s personnel are able to deploy to support New Zealand operations and exercises, from Australia to the Pacific and Middle East, CPL Morris said. “Predominantly though, we would be supporting everything across the Pacific area and beyond, in a variety of situations including Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief missions, search and rescue operations through to support for flying squadrons carrying out military operations.

“We are the conduit providing that link from the aircraft back to command and New Zealand.” The team is able to work in pretty much any environment, where there are no traditional communication networks available, he said. “We have the ability to work outside the box. If we’re in the middle of nowhere and we have no local resources, we need to be able to bring in everything we need to support our work and support Air Operations. “We need to facilitate the local command element getting and receiving information from Joint Forces to be able to task aircraft,” he said. “There are many times we are the sole unit that the aircraft is speaking with, so from a safety perspective, if anything goes wrong, it’s going to come back to us. So it’s of utmost importance that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it to the best of our ability.”

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 41


3

Star struck Wing Commander Leigh Foster has his eyes firmly on the stars with a secondment to Rocket Lab. He tells Air Force News what it’s like to work in the Space domain.

What role are you doing at Rocket Lab?

What benefits from the secondment will you bring back to the Air Force?

My role at Rocket Lab is the Project Manager of the NASA CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) mission, which is to launch a spacecraft to an orbit around the moon. It involves a lot of development work and complex engineering on a super tight timeline.

Having spent 20 years in the blue uniform, this secondment has been a chance to broaden my experience and learn new ways of working that are very different to the military.

Why are Air Force personnel seconded to an organisation that shoots rockets into space? There is technology and capabilities being demonstrated in space today that will become the cornerstone of tomorrow’s military operational capabilities. The more we as a Defence Force learn about, and gain experience in, space technology and operations, the more we can understand how they can be used to support societal objectives. To experience working and operating in a fast-moving, agile engineering environment, and bring back these ideas and experiences to the Air Force, can only be advantageous to us.

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I’ve witnessed how a market leading organisation like Rocket Lab successfully scales across functions, while staying lean and agile, ideas the military should leverage now and in the future. Rocket Lab also has thorough strategic focus, and their planning and execution of really tight timelines is hugely impressive. I’ll be bringing back insights into how this can be done within a large organisation like the Air Force. What interests you about space? Although I’m interested in all things space, I’m particularly interested in how space is becoming a new warfighting domain. I started my space journey while at the Air War College in 2018 where I focussed on developing NZDF’s space security strategy. With our heavy reliance on services provided by satellites such as GPS, communications, and more, we could be vulnerable.


4

Rocket Lab’s Air Force The discipline that Air Force personnel bring to aerospace manufacturer and small satellite launch service provider Rocket Lab is invaluable, the company’s founder and chief executive Peter Beck says. There are a range of threats that can compromise these space systems so whatever role the NZDF has or will have in space, these threats will be front of mind for decision-makers.  What advice do you have for young people interested in the Air Force and space? Get involved! It’s super interesting and being relatively new to New Zealand, there is the element of excitement that comes with it. Invest your time in learning, growing and better understanding all things space. Feel free to reach out to me – I am always happy to chat to help educate our soldiers, sailors and airmen.  Finally, read, write and think about how the NZDF should get after this domain, what we should do, how we should engage, and what opportunities you foresee. We need space-passionate people who understand how we can use space to launch ourselves into the future.

“We second military personnel because we love the way they think. The Defence Force trains their head officers and technicians extremely well.” Rocket Lab launches small satellites to space from Mahia on the North Island’s east coast and it’s successfully deployed 48 small commercial and military satellites to low-Earth orbit since the company’s first launch in 2017. The company brings in personnel on secondment and also hires former service people, who make up the majority of the final assembly team, Mr Beck said. “These are the people who screw the last screw in the rocket and sign it off for flights. The discipline that they bring is really, really good.” The personnel who work in Rocket Lab benefitted by getting exposure to a super-fast-paced commercial entity as well as exposure to the space eco-system and with cutting edge technology, he said. There was a “super strong” relationship between Rocket Lab and the Air Force, which formulated 12 years ago, Mr Beck said.

“We started to work together when we needed to do some parachute drop tests to test some of our ballistic parachutes. So we went out to the Kaipara Range and threw steel tubes out of aeroplanes from high altitudes, with parachutes attached to the back, so that’s where it started.” In the future the relationship between Rocket Lab and the Air Force would strengthen because of the nature of the work the Air Force undertakes, he said. “Whether it be out in the middle of the Pacific or flying local reconnaissance missions – it’s all space-enabled through communications and GPS. “People quickly forget how reliant we all are on space infrastructure, but given the tasks and challenges ahead of the New Zealand Defence Force, the persistence of space offers some pretty elegant solutions to solving some of the bigger problems.” Space was becoming a “critical domain”, which could be seen in the United States with the creation of the Space Force, Mr Beck said. “Space is really recognised now as a separate domain, where there was just land, sea and air now we also have space.”

AIR FORCE NEWS #227 | 43


Profile for New Zealand Defence Force

Royal New Zealand Air Force | Air Force News - Issue 227, August 2020  

Air Force News is a monthly magazine that strives to inform its readers about the latest news from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It cover...

Royal New Zealand Air Force | Air Force News - Issue 227, August 2020  

Air Force News is a monthly magazine that strives to inform its readers about the latest news from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It cover...

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