The Army has stood up a new Aviation Command, placing all its helicopters, unmanned aerial systems and training under a single Canberra-based organisation headed by a two-star officer.
That’s Major General Stephen Jobson, an experienced Black Hawk and MRH 90 pilot who has commanded 16th Aviation Brigade and 6th Aviation Regiment.
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr said the alignment of Army’s aviation capability and its 1,500 personnel under its own command would optimises Army Aviation to better support’s Army land, amphibious and special operations.
Army Aviation Command received its pennant at a ceremony in front of Defence headquarters in Canberra on Thursday, marked by a flypast of six helicopters – two Black Hawks and four MRH 90s.
Lieutenant General Burr said until the formation of the RAAF in 1921, all Australian military aviation was conducted by the Army.
Australian Army Aviation was officially formed on July 1, 1968 but operation of its main helicopter fleets remained an RAAF responsibility. In 1989 the RAAF handed all its battlefield helicopters – the new Black Hawks and the UH-1H Iroquois – to the Army.
LTGEN Burr said the new Army Aviation Command strengthened the command and control of all Army’s complex aviation systems, both manned and unmanned.
“It provides a single of entry and coordination for industry, for air worthiness, air assurance for safety and to make sure we are delivering the capabilities that we need for our Army,” he said.
LTGEN Burr said the new Command would be located in Canberra, close to his headquarters, Australian Defence Force headquarters, other joint capabilities, industry and the Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG).
Major General Jobson said this was a very proud day for Army.
“It is an opportunity for us to bring together aviation experience, command responsibility and air worthiness accountability, to create a streamlined, efficient and optimised organisation that is best postured to move us forward into the strategic challenges and to ensure the safety and efficiency of the capabilities that our Australia public expects,” he said.
“Army Aviation command is over 1500 men and women both serving in unforms and also in the Australian public service and our valued industry partners.
“The organisation includes 16th Aviation Brigade, the Army Aviation Training Centre, and of course our directorates in Canberra that are responsibility predominantly for air worthiness and capabilities management.”
LTGEN Burr said Army Aviation was for the soldier.
“It always has been. Australian Army aviation was formed in July 1968 yet Army has flown in support of ground forces for more than a century,” he told the parade.
“They flew in combat and supported the Australian soldiers form the air, in the first world war, Korea and Vietnam.
“Army pilots pioneered new ways to support ground forces through aerial reconnaissance, surveillance, fire control and liaison. Their experiences were the foundation of the RAAF when it formed in 1921.”
Lieutenant General Burr said in the 100 years since then, Army and Air Force aviation had served proudly at home and abroad.
“From these experiences army aviation has learned valuable lessons and has changed in response to new technology and capabilities.
“It will continue to adapt and evolve as it always has.”
Army Aviation currently operates an all-helicopter force, with a mixed fleet of 140 aircraft –MRH 90 Taipans, Sikorsky S-70A-9 Black Hawks (to be retired in the next few weeks), Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters and Boeing CH-47F Chinooks.
New equipment is on the way. From mid-decade, the Army’s 22 Tigers will be replaced by 29 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters.
Under project Land 2097 Phase 4, Army is seeking 16 light helicopters for use by special forces counter-terrorism operations.
Black Hawks, which entered service in 1988 are close to retirement, their roles in transport of troops and equipment and support of special forces, taken by the MRH 90.