No. 4 Squadron RAAF

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No. 4 Squadron RAAF
4SqnRAAFCrest.jpg
No. 4 Squadron's crest
Active 1916–19
1937–39
1940–48
2009–current
Country Australia
Branch Royal Australian Air Force
Role Forward air control
Special operations
Forward air control training
Part of No. 82 Wing
Base RAAF Base Williamtown
Motto(s) "Cooperate to Strike"
Engagements World War I
World War II
War in Afghanistan
Aircraft flown
Fighter Sopwith Camel
Sopwith Snipe
Hawker Demon
CAC Wirraway
CAC Boomerang
P-40 Kittyhawk
CAC Mustang
Reconnaissance Auster AOP III
Trainer De Havilland Moth Minor
Avro Anson
Pilatus PC-9

No. 4 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force squadron composed of the air force special forces Combat Controllers, aircrew who operate the Pilatus PC-9A(F) (Forward Air Control variant) aircraft and instructors for the Australian Defence Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) course.[1][2]

The squadron was previously a fighter and army co-operation unit active in both World War I and World War II. Formed in late 1917, the squadron operated on the Western Front as part of the Australian Flying Corps until the armistice in November 1918. It was disbanded after the war in mid-1919, but re-raised in 1937 and 1940. In 1942 it deployed to New Guinea, where it supported military forces by spotting for artillery and providing reconnaissance and close air support. As the war progressed, the squadron took part in the Huon Peninsula, New Britain and Borneo campaigns. It was disbanded in early 1948, but was re-formed on 2 July 2009 to provide training to forward air controllers and to support Army Special Operations Command.[3]

Composition[edit]

No. 4 Squadron consists of three Flights designated as A, B and C as well as maintenance / logistics sections and a small administrative team.

A Flight[edit]

A Flight is composed of aircrew responsible for operating four Pilatus PC-9A(F) Forward Air Control (FAC) variant aircraft.[1] The PC-9A(F) in grey paintwork differs from the standard PC-9A in several ways, including external stores carriage, communications equipment, undercarriage and is fitted with smoke grenade dispensers for target marking.[4][5] The aircraft are based at RAAF Base Williamtown to train ADF Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC).[6]

B Flight Combat Control Team (CCT)[edit]

B Flight is the Combat Control Team (CCT), composed of Combat Controllers responsible for reconnaissance, joint terminal attack control and advanced force operations either as part of a larger advanced force (supporting the SASR or Commandos from the 1st or 2nd Commando Regiment) or independently.[7][8] Combat Controllers provide a range of capabilities, including from Forward Air Control of Offensive Air Support, Landing Zone Reconnaissance, Aviation Meteorology Observation and Airspace Management.[7]

The Special Tactics Project was formed in 2007 to train air force personnel as Combat Controllers similar to US Air Force combat controllers following a request by the Army Special Operations Command in 2006.[9][10][11] Between 2008 and 2009, three intakes completed initial training and four members deployed during combat operations in Afghanistan with the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG).[11][12] Combat Controllers served continuously with the SOTG from 2008 rotating controllers at each SOTG rotation until withdrawal.[13] In July 2009, the Special Tactics Project became B Flight in the reformed No. 4 Squadron.[3]

Selection to become a Combat Controller is open to any ADF member and involves completion of the 8-week CCT Intake Course providing preparatory ground skills training and to prepare volunteers for the Special Forces Entry Test.[14] Volunteers need to successfully pass the Special Forces Entry Test, complete the Commando Reinforcement Training Cycle, Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Aviation Meteorology, Assault Zone Reconnaissance and Air Weapons Delivery courses.[7][15][16] After passing selection and completing nearly two years of training the Combat Controller is issued with a grey beret featuring a Sykes-Fairbain (commando) dagger.[11]

C Flight[edit]

C Flight delivers the ADF Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) course as well as the on going accreditation of graduates.[1] In 2005, the Air Force became the first foreign air force to receive Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) accreditation from the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM).[17][4] The six-week JTAC course teaches planning, briefing, controlling and reporting of close air support (CAS). The JTAC course is conducted twice a year with aim of graduating 32 students a year. More than 300 students have graduated since 1997.[18]

History[edit]

World War I[edit]

 A chalked scoreboard for No. 80 Wing RAF claims by squadron. The claims are categorised as under columns headed "In Flames", "Crashed", "O.O.C." (Out of Control), "Driven Down" and "Balloons Destroyed".
France, November 1918. A scoreboard of aerial victories claimed by No. 80 Wing RAF from July to November 1918. The units listed are: No. 4 Squadron AFC, No. 88 Squadron RAF, No. 2 Squadron AFC, and Nos. 92, 103, 46 and 54 Squadrons RAF.

No. 4 Squadron was established as a unit of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) at Point Cook, Victoria, on 16 October 1916.[19][20] According to the unit war diary, Captain Andrew Lang took command of the squadron and its initial complement of one officer and 26 men on 25 October.[21] Shortly after its formation the squadron departed for Britain, arriving at Castle Bromwich for further training in March 1917.[19][20]

The unit arrived in France on 18 December 1917. During its time on the Western Front, it was assigned to No. 80 Wing. Operating Sopwith Camels and Snipes, it performed fighter sweeps, provided air support for the army, and raided German airstrips. No. 4 Squadron claimed more "kills" than any other AFC unit: 199 enemy aircraft destroyed.[22] In addition, 33 enemy balloons were destroyed or driven down.[23]

Members of the unit included Captain Harry Cobby, the AFC's leading ace of the war, credited with destroying 29 aircraft and observation balloons, and Captain George Jones, who shot down seven aircraft and later served as the RAAF's Chief of the Air Staff for ten years.[22] Aces Roy King, Edgar McCloughry, Herbert Watson, Thomas Baker, Leonard Taplin, Thomas Barkell, Arthur Palliser, Norman Trescowthick, Garnet Malley and Albert Robertson also served in the squadron.[24]

Following the armistice, No. 4 Squadron remained in Europe and was based in Cologne, Germany, as part of the British Army of Occupation. It returned to Australia in March 1919 and was disbanded in Melbourne in June.[25]

World War II[edit]

No. 4 Squadron was re-formed as a general reconnaissance unit at RAAF Station Richmond, New South Wales, on 3 May 1937, flying Hawker Demons before taking delivery of its first Avro Anson the following month. Re-numbered No. 6 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron on 1 March 1939, No. 4 Squadron was re-formed again at Richmond on 17 June 1940, this time as an army co-operation unit. Originally equipped with Demons and De Havilland Moths, it converted to CAC Wirraways in September and relocated to Canberra later that month.[26] On 20 May 1942, No. 4 Squadron deployed to Camden Airfield, where it flew anti-submarine patrols as well as army co-operation training sorties until redeploying to Queensland and then in November to New Guinea.[25]

Six men in front of a single-engined military monoplane parked on a jungle airfield
No. 4 Squadron Boomerang fighter and ground crew in New Guinea, October 1943

The squadron's initial task in New Guinea was to support the American and Australian forces in the Battle of Buna-Gona. Until the end of the war the squadron operated in the army co-operation role, providing ground forces with artillery observation, reconnaissance and close air support. On 26 December 1942, a No. 4 Squadron Wirraway piloted by Pilot Officer John Archer shot down an A6M Zero. This was the only kill achieved by a Wirraway during the war and earned Archer the US Silver Star.[27][28] On 31 January 1943, the squadron sent one of its flights to Wau, where it participated in the Battle of Wau.[29]

In May 1943, No. 4 Squadron was re-equipped with CAC Boomerang fighter aircraft,[29] to be operated in a tactical reconnaissance role. Operating with these new aircraft and also some Wirraways it had retained, the squadron supported the Australian 7th and 9th Divisions during the Huon Peninsula campaign.[30] It also operated six Piper Cubs as liaison aircraft during these campaigns.[31] The squadron continued to support Australian, US Army and US Marine Corps units in New Guinea and New Britain until March 1945 when it deployed to Morotai and then to the island of Labuan to support Australian ground forces in the Borneo campaign. It supported the 9th Division's campaign in North Borneo and the 7th Division's landing at Balikpapan.[32] Casualties during the war amounted to 37 personnel killed.[33]

Post-war years[edit]

After the war, No. 4 Squadron returned to Australia on 14 November 1945 and was again based at Canberra. It re-equipped with late-model P-40 Kittyhawks, having received a few of these aircraft while in Borneo, and this was followed by CAC Mustangs and Austers in early 1947.[32] After completing training on its new aircraft, the squadron provided a firepower demonstration for cadets of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, during an exercise at Braidwood in September 1947.[34] On 7 March 1948, No. 4 Squadron ceased to exist, having been re-numbered No. 3 Squadron.[35][36]

No. 4 Squadron was re-formed on 3 July 2009 at RAAF Base Williamtown to train forward air controllers.[37] The Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU) of No. 82 Wing, which operated Pilatus PC-9s, was merged into the new unit, along with the Special Tactics Project.[38][9] This continued the FAC presence at Williamtown that had been maintained by FACDU and No. 4 Flight, which operated Winjeels out of Williamtown from 1970 to 1989.[39]

Aircraft operated[edit]

A No. 4 Squadron Pilatus PC-9A in 2015

No. 4 Squadron has operated the following aircraft:[35][40]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "No. 4 Squadron – Royal Australian Air Force". Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "4SQN shows path for FAC future" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5123). Canberra: Department of Defence. 10 December 2009. ISSN 1329-8909. 
  3. ^ a b Abbott, FLTLT Jaimie (23 July 2009). "4SQN back on line" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5113). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 1329-8909. Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "First in JTAC accreditation". Defence: The Official Magazine (June 2006). Archived from the original on 20 September 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Aircraft enhancements" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5602). Canberra: Department of Defence. 13 February 2014. ISSN 1329-8909. 
  6. ^ "PC-9/A – Royal Australian Air Force". Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c "Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Combat Controllers". 2nd Commando Regiment. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Air Power Development Centre (June 2014). "Combat Control in the RAAF". Pathfinder Issue 224. Royal Australian Air Force. 
  9. ^ a b "Special Tactics people wanted". Air Force News. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  10. ^ Allard, Tom (17 March 2008). "New squadron will aim to cut civilian deaths". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c Friend, FLTLT Cath (4 July 2013). "Controllers get berets" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5512 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 1329-8909. 
  12. ^ Air Power Development Centre (June 2014). "Combat Control in the RAAF". Pathfinder: Air Power Development Centre Bulletin. Royal Australian Air Force (224). Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Friend, FLTLT Cath (11 September 2014). "Control team drops in" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5617). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 1329-8909. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  14. ^ Giles, FLGOFF Nat (2 July 2015). "Pushing the limits" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5712). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 1329-8909. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  15. ^ Rinaldi, FLTLT Rinaldi (26 April 2012). "Special force of our own" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5407 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 1329-8909. 
  16. ^ "4SQN in combat control - CCTs learn from USAF" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5223). Canberra: Department of Defence. 9 December 2010. ISSN 1329-8909. Retrieved 5 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "JTAC accreditation critical" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5602). Canberra: Department of Defence. 13 February 2014. ISSN 1329-8909. 
  18. ^ Friend, FLTLT Cath (26 April 2012). "JTACs pass final hurdle" (PDF). Air Force: The Official Newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force (5407 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 1329-8909. 
  19. ^ a b Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 26
  20. ^ a b RAAF Historical Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force, p. 9
  21. ^ "No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps" (PDF). Australian Imperial Force War Diaries. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 16–21
  23. ^ Isaacs, Military Aircraft of Australia 1909–1918, p. 158
  24. ^ Newton, Australian Air Aces, pp. 60–61
  25. ^ a b Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 27
  26. ^ Roylance, Air Base Richmond, pp. 41–42, 124
  27. ^ Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 28
  28. ^ "Beachhead Battles". Australia's War 1939–1945. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 29
  30. ^ Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 30
  31. ^ Cowan, Brendan. "Piper L-4 Grasshopper/Cub". Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History RAAF. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  32. ^ a b Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 31
  33. ^ "4 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  34. ^ Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 32
  35. ^ a b "No 4 Squadron". RAAF Museum. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  36. ^ Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 23
  37. ^ "New Air Force Capability at Williamtown" (Press release). Department of Defence. 3 July 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  38. ^ "Air Combat group set to fly". Air Force News. September 2001. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  39. ^ "FAC flight formed". Royal Australian Air Force Air Power Development Centre. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  40. ^ Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, pp. 26–32

References[edit]

  • Barnes, Norman (2000). The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons. St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-130-2. 
  • Isaacs, Keith (1971). Military Aircraft of Australia 1909–1918. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. ISBN 9780642993748. 
  • McLaughlin, Andrew (2009). "4SQN: A new era for JTAC training". Australian Aviation. Canberra: Phantom Media (265). ISSN 0813-0876. 
  • Newton, Dennis (1996). Australian Air Aces: Australian Fighter Pilots in Combat. Fyshwick, Australian Capital Territory: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-25-0. 
  • RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: A Concise History. Volume 2: Fighter Units. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0-644-42794-9. 
  • Roylance, Derek (1991). Air Base Richmond. RAAF Base Richmond: Royal Australian Air Force. ISBN 0-646-05212-8. 
  • Stephens, Alan (2006) [2001]. The Royal Australian Air Force: A History. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-555541-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Eather, Steve (1995). Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force. Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-15-3. 
  • Johnston, Mark (2011). Whispering Death: Australian Airmen in the Pacific War. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-901-3. 
  • Molkentin, Michael (2010). Fire in the Sky: The Australian Flying Corps in the First World War. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74237-072-9. 
  • Richards, E.J. (1919). Australian Airmen: History of the 4th Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. Melbourne: Bruce & Co. OCLC 220037434.