Army’s 16 Air Land Regiment is now simply 16 Regiment Royal Australian Artillery, just one of a number of changes being implemented as the unit upgrades its current equipment and prepares for that to be replaced in the early 2020s by a National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS).
The Regiment was retitled on 2 June this year for the second time in less than nine years as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations; a practical move to negate further name changes as the specialist unit evolves for the future.
Formerly the 16th Air Defence Regiment, the unit assumed the 16th Air Land title in January 2012 following the amalgamation of the independent 1st Ground Liaison Group into the Regiment’s 1st Air Ground Operations (AGO) Battery, joining the extant 110 and 111 Air Defence Batteries.
“Because as air defenders we must constantly liaise with Air Force to be able to fight our mission system, we also took on responsibility for command and control of joint air/land integration,” 16 Regiment’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Mankowski said to ADM – incidentally the initial commander of the AGO Battery and its constituent Ground Officer Liaison and Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) troop.
“At that time air-land integration was emerging as a key lesson for Afghanistan. Army needed subject matter experts who could talk with authority on air-land matters and more importantly to integrate from JTAC all the way up to the air operations centre in terms of arguing for air support and integrating our schemes of manoeuvre,” he commented.
The Regiment’s fixed-launcher Rapier short range air defence system (SHORAD) was replaced by the Saab Bofors short range RBS-70 MANPADS (man-portable air defence system) in 111 Battery in 1987. Eighteen years later 110 Battery also received the RBS-70 system, including the longer-range Bolide missile, and associated Lockheed Martin L-band PSTAR-ER portable search and target acquisition radars.
C-RAM and beyond
New sensors and C4I arrangements came into play in late 2010 to provide a C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar) capability to Australian troops at their Tarin Kot base in Afghanistan.
This capability comprised the Saab Giraffe Agile Multi-Beam (GAMB) 3D radar coupled with US-made SRCTec lightweight counter-mortar radars (LCMRs) and the Wireless Audio Visual Emergency System (WAVES). The latter provides early warning audible and visual alerts when the C-RAM sensors detect and identify an incoming threat within an exclusion zone, and is currently being upgraded by Saab Australia.
Sophisticated software integrated with the signal and data processing element of the truck-mounted Giraffe system detects the firing point of rockets, artillery and mortars more than 20 km away and over a 360-degree horizon. The SRCTec AN/TPQ-48 (v) 3 LCMR automatically detects and locates mortar firing positions out to a range of about 10 kilometres by tracking in-flight mortar shells utilising a non-rotating, electronically-steered antenna and backtracking them to their point of origin.
The system can be assembled by a two-man crew and is transportable in two containers that each weigh less than 68 kg. Major upgrades of the Regiment’s three GAMB radars and 31 LCMRs are now underway and set to transform the unit’s air defence capability.
“Giraffe was procured specifically for the C-RAM function but as that operational requirement diminished the need for a PSTAR-ER replacement became increasingly apparent,” LTCOL Mankowski explained. “We’ve iteratively integrated Giraffe into our existing suite of capabilities which provides a significant capability enhancement, and it’s now compatible with our tactical command and control system (TACCS) that gives us our day and night cueing capability to RBS-70.
“It’s also compatible with the latest modification of the Forward Area Air Defence Command and Control software (FAADC2) which feeds into the Air and Missile Defence Workstation (AMDWS) and provides our sense and locate or C-RAM requirement.
“All three Giraffes are being upgraded in Australia with Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) - one is undertaking trial activities in Finland, the second is being upgraded now, and the third will be upgraded shortly. We expect to have all radars back in the Regiment by October with their full air defence capabilities. All our radars will still be available for C-RAM.”
Mode 5 IFF
Mode 5 IFF is the next-generation encrypted data link between interrogators and transponders to confirm an aircraft is friendly, even if the IFF transponder is set to stand-by. The Mode 5 IFF Level 1 and 2, as well as ADS-B and Mode S capabilities, provide an enhanced capability to support future operational air defence requirements.
Australia is thought to be the first country to implement a Mode 5 upgrade on a Giraffe, LTCOL Mankowski said.
“FAAD2 and AMDWS can supply VMH and J-Series messages to the wider joint fires network if required and I expect those two systems will continue to be used, potentially to integrate with Link 16 so we can share the sensor data we get off Giraffe with the wider air defence community,” he stated.
“We have the Land Battle Management System in the Regiment but it’s not integrated with the air defence systems; however the current systems provide all the integration we need in terms of supporting the land commander.
“Link 16 is available as a stand-alone capability, we can use it for surveillance purposes but at the moment it’s not integrated; it’s an initiative currently being considered by Army.”
The PSTAR-ER capability has been withdrawn from service and is in the process of being replaced, not only by Giraffe but probably also in part by the SRCTec AN/TPQ-49 LCMR acquired specifically for the C-RAM mission.
These are being trialled with new software that upgrades them into air surveillance radars with sufficient sensitivity to provide cueing against unmanned aerial systems and conventional aircraft. They too have been integrated into TACCS, LTCOL Mankowski disclosed.
“The RBS-70 itself has been upgraded throughout its life since the ‘80s and it’s still very relevant, very capable, and we’ve optimised it against attack helicopter-type targets and unmanned aerial vehicles. High speed crossing targets would be harder but still we’d give it a red-hot go.
“We’ve got Bushmaster Protected Mobility Air Defence Variants that allow us to transport the equipment securely and we’ve got enough radios to support networks. You have to take the launcher out of the vehicle but that makes sense anyway from a survivability perspective.”
Land 19 Phase 7B
The announcement on 25 March this year that Australia will proceed with the $2.5 billion acquisition of NASAMS presages an extraordinary leap in capability and complexity for 16 Regiment as the system’s future operator.
“NASAMS will be part of an integrated air defence system; it’s not a one-for-one equipment swap, it will be a transformation both in capability and in training,” LTCOL Mankowski said to ADM.
The Australian ‘enhanced’ version of NASAMS utilises a CEATAC active electronically scanned array (AESA) tactical air defence
radar developed by Canberra company CEA Technologies. CEATAC will likely be deployed from a housing on the modified tray of a Thales Australia Hawkei two-door protected mobility vehicle or on a towed trailer, and comprises four fixed faces, each of which includes multifunction capabilities including medium-range surveillance IFF and fire control.
CEA’s larger Operational Sensor System (CEAOPS) will act as a longer-range cuing radar and features a large single-faced rotating AESA radar and four smaller fixed-face arrays, fitted in a self-contained, standard 20ft ISO container footprint mounted on an army Rheinmetall HX77 8x8 truck.
The main array face provides long-range surveillance and all-mode IFF functionality and can rotate to 30 rpm for 360-degree coverage. It can also be slewed to stare-in sectors. The four smaller faces provide constant 360-degree medium-range coverage, including while the vehicle is underway.
Also selected for the Australian configuration is Raytheon’s AN/AAS-52 Multispectral Targeting System (MTS-A), an electro-optical/infrared sensor suite with an integrated laser range finder and real-time tracking capability that will likely be deployed on a Hawkei within a standard Tricon container footprint, and will be mounted on a 5m telescopic mast to increase its coverage.
The MTS-A is already in service on the RAN’s MH-60R combat helicopters, and will enable NASAMS to engage targets without radiating as well as providing visual raid and kill assessments for operators.
Other elements of the enhanced Australian configuration will likely include Raytheon’s High Mobility Launcher (HML) for four or six AMRAAM or AIM-9X Block 2 missiles mounted on a rotating base on a Hawkei, and the latest six-missile Kongsberg Mk 2 canister launcher, configured for radar-guided AMRAAMs but upgradable with a software modification for the optically-guided AIM-9X Block 2.
Australia will initially acquire two NASAMS batteries, each made up of three fire units or troops , each of which in turn will comprise a Fire Distribution Centre in a truck-mounted shelter, a CEATAC radar, a MTS-A EO/IR sensor, and a number of canister and/or High Mobility Launchers with AMRAAM missiles.
The cueing for each of the troops is the CEATAC radar with the CEAOPS radar acting as the cuing radar for the battery, meaning CEATAC does not have to radiate until absolutely necessary.
Delivery of the first NASAMS battery is anticipated in 2022 and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is expected in Financial Year 2022/2023. Following delivery of the second battery, Full Operational Capability (FOC) is scheduled for Financial Year 2025/2026.
Training for NASAMS
Personnel from 16 Regiment have already had access to the air defence consoles that are the command and control heart of NASAMS, and gunners will begin training later this year to develop doctrine and standard operating procedures.
For LTCOL Mankowski, a priority is to pre-select personnel for the new capability and give them the skills and experience required to make the transformational change.
As one example, with the RBS-70 a Gunner engages the target and fires the missile with a Bombardier supervising to make sure the right type of target is or is not being engaged, and ensuring site defence and other issues.
“In the future it’s our Sergeants who will be managing multiple systems, data links and communications, while effectively lining up the engagement and it will be our lieutenants who actually make the engagement decision,” LTCOL Mankowski explained.
“The Gunners and Bombardiers will be manning the high-mobility launchers and the radars, but they won’t need the in-depth air defence knowledge at the start of their careers. They will develop their technical and tactical acumen in preparation for their employment as a Sergeant in front of the air defence console.
“So I’ve got to find the right people and invest in them now so that when the equipment arrives those Bombardiers are promoted to the rank of Sergeant and they’re ready to fight the equipment as it arrives”.
This article first appeared in the July 2019 edition of ADM.