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It could be said that Cobham has been something of the quiet achiever of Australian skies. Providing dependable airborne surveillance services to protect Australian borders and Australian waters for the past quarter of a century, and search-and-rescue (SAR) services spanning Australia’s vast SAR region, the Special Mission arm of Cobham has largely “flown under the radar” when it comes to leaving a mark in this specialist field of aviation services.

That’s set to change as Cobham Special Mission positions itself for growth and expansion with a pipeline of exciting opportunities.

Managing Director James Woodhams is heading the Special Mission team with a strong focus on expanding the organisation’s remit into defence and adjacent markets to complement its existing well-established federal government contracts.

“Cobham is uniquely placed to leverage its extensive knowhow and resource capability in the provision of end-to-end aerospace solutions, encompassing ISR operations, aircrew training, aircraft modification, maintenance, sensor support and systems integration,” said Mr Woodhams.


“Take the airborne search-and-rescue capability that we provide to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as an example.

“Not only did we design, integrate and now operate a highly specialised search-and-rescue jet capability, complete with an Australian developed ISR Mission Management System that integrates the platform, sensors and communications systems to provide real-time reporting of mission progress to the AMSA Response Centre, but we also we recruit, train and deploy mission aircrew that conduct a range of operations in complex environments.”

Since commencing operations on behalf of the AMSA, Cobham has played a key role in saving or assisting hundreds of lives.

“We have intimate knowledge of every aspect of what it takes to not only provide a turn-key operation, but to also consistently meet and exceed contract performance targets,” said Mr Woodhams.

Cobham’s track record speaks for itself in terms of consistency and the ability to deliver a nationally critical service.

The team recently secured a six-year contract extension with the Australian Border Force to continue providing border surveillance services. Australia has strong economic and national interests in maintaining civil maritime security within and beyond Australian waters. It is a complex and dynamic environment where aerial surveillance services are critical and required to be flexible.

Over the course of the current surveillance contract of more than 13 years, Cobham has delivered 98 per cent of tasked surveillance missions and maintained an average contract performance score well above the contractual threshold.

Mr Woodhams attributes much of the ongoing success of the operation to the calibre of the Special Mission team.

“We have an extraordinarily passionate and dedicated team operating out of strategic bases across the country, including regional hubs in Northern Australia,” said Mr Woodhams.

Cobham is the largest employer of mission aircrew in Australia outside the Australian Defence Force. Its pilot cohort are experienced in unique, hands-on, low-level flying. These pilots, mission aircrew and specialist aircraft are supported by dedicated engineering teams, who play a critical role in supporting Cobham’s operations and are a key factor in the organisation's plans to expand into new horizons in future.

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