Australien — Hercs and Orions join forces

AIR FORCE assets are final­ly togeth­er on the ground in the Mid­dle East after the move of the C‑130 Detach­ment to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates (UAE) was com­plet­ed in Decem­ber. The AP-3C Ori­on Detach­ment has been at an air­base in the UAE since 2003 and after a few months of tran­si­tion, the C‑130s are now in place and con­tin­u­ing their excel­lent record of ser­vice. Due to their com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent roles – C‑130s are tac­ti­cal air­lift; the Ori­ons are Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance and Recon­nais­sance (ISR) – they do not rely on each oth­er for oper­a­tional support. 

AP-3C Orion/C-130
Source: Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force

Where they do meet is at the coal face – the main­tain­ers and their equip­ment on the ground. AP-3C Shift Boss B Spi­der Main­te­nance FSGT Neil Pinker said the extra equip­ment brought by the C‑130 main­tain­ers was a bonus for his per­son­nel. “The key points are com­mon­al­i­ty with their Ground Sup­port Equip­ment (GSE),” he said. “We now have a greater stock­pile to choose from and ver­sa­til­i­ty in the use of GSE. If either of us needs a par­tic­u­lar piece we can source it from each oth­er.” One area FGST Pinker said that they can look at in the future is air­craft struc­tur­al fit­ters, or met­al bash­ers as they are com­mon­ly known. “One thing we are look­ing at is our met­al bash­er capa­bil­i­ty,” he said. “The Ori­ons have one on each shift, where­as the Hercs have one cov­er­ing three shifts; maybe we can have a cen­tral met­al bash­ing shop for all.” Deputy Aus­tralian Air Com­po­nent Com­man­der in the MEAO, WGCDR John Young, said the logis­tics advan­tages can­not be under­stat­ed. “We have con­sol­i­dat­ed our efforts and removed dupli­ca­tion by hav­ing the two detach­ments here,” he said. “Instead of Air Force assets being scat­tered around the MEAO, we have every­thing here. Hav­ing a big­ger air com­po­nent foot­print in this loca­tion is good for us.”

He said it was not an easy job mov­ing the C‑130s to the UAE, but when they start­ed to arrive, the base was well and tru­ly ready to receive them. “Every­one now oper­ates in a com­mon loca­tion,” WGCDR Young said. “So if you need to know some­thing you can lit­er­al­ly just walk down the hall.” One of the chal­lenges faced by the co-loca­tion of the Ori­ons and Hercs is space. There is lim­it­ed space cur­rent­ly on offer at the air­base. Aus­tralian, coali­tion part­ners and con­trac­tors all use the run­way and many air­field facil­i­ties. Ramp space is tight. “The last Herc can some­times block access to the new hangar,” FSGT Pinker said. “They don’t work the same times as us, so we have to ring them up to ask them to move their aircraft.

If you move one, usu­al­ly you have to move them all. It’s like hav­ing to move the Corti­na to move the Kingswood to get the Torana. But we work around it to get the job done.” WGCDR Young agreed that the space is an issue and at the start it was a lit­tle dys­func­tion­al. “We oper­ate on a very, busy piece of ground with coali­tion air­craft and our own,” he said. “But we have a pos­i­tive work­ing rela­tion­ship with them and that makes things work.” He said even with that issue, they all have a com­mon aim – to get air­craft in the air and back safe­ly, and on time. “The Ori­ons are the great unsung achiev­ers,” WGCDR Young said. “They may fly for 10 hours, and what they do in those 10 hours is quite incred­i­ble.” In rela­tion to the C‑130s, he said with only three air­craft in the­atre, the lev­el of car­go they move is dis­pro­por­tion­ate. “They are very effi­cient at what they do,” he said. “Our Ori­ons and Hercs are all doing great work and not drop­ping mis­sions. “We have the foun­da­tions of a very func­tion­al air­base here – it is not there yet, but it’s very close.” 

Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force 

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