No. 5 Flight RAAF

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No. 5 Flight RAAF
One of No. 5 Flight's Herons on display at the Centenary of Military Aviation 2014 airshow
One of No. 5 Flight's Herons on display at the Centenary of Military Aviation 2014 airshow
Active 2010–current
Country Australia
Branch Royal Australian Air Force
Role Training
Part of No. 92 Wing RAAF
Current base RAAF Base Amberley
Engagements War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Decorations Meritorious Unit Citation
Aircraft flown
Reconnaissance Heron RPA

No. 5 Flight is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft flight equipped with IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles. It was established in 2010 to operate Herons in Afghanistan. Following the withdrawal of the Heron detachment from that country in 2014, it has conducted training missions in Australia to maintain the RAAF's expertise in operating unmanned aerial vehicles until more advanced types are delivered.

History[edit]

No. 5 Flight was raised on 18 January 2010 at RAAF Base Amberley as part of No. 82 Wing.[1][2] The flight's initial role was to operate the RAAF's small fleet of IAI Heron remotely piloted aircraft which were based at Kandahar in Afghanistan.[2][3]

On 13 April 2013 the responsibility for Heron RPA transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force's Surveillance and Response Group.[4] At this time the flight's responsibilities included training personnel from all branches of the Australian Defence Force to operate the Herons in Australia, and maintaining a detachment of personnel at Kandahar to operate the RPAs as part of Operation Slipper, Australia's contribution to the war in Afghanistan.[5][6] The RAAF acquired a third Heron during 2011 which No. 5 Flight used to train RPA operators in Australia; prior to this time Heron operators were trained in Canada.[1][3] The RAAF's Air Force newspaper reported in May 2011 that No. 5 Flight comprised a "handful of members".[3] On 4 April 2013 the flight transferred to No. 92 Wing; at this time it had a strength of 18 full-time personnel and three reservists, and operated four Herons. Three of the UAVs were deployed to Afghanistan and the fourth was in Australia.[2] As of 2013, most of No. 5 Flight's UAV operators had been fixed-wing aircraft pilots from the RAAF, Army and Navy.[7]

After a further extension of their mission, the Heron detachment was scheduled to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014.[8] It was announced in October 2014 that two Herons will be retained in Australia for a six-year period; at this time one of the UAVs was based at Woomera, South Australia and the other will be transported from Afghanistan. It is planned that the two Herons will eventually operate from other Australian military and civilian airfields.[9] The final Heron UAV detachment left Afghanistan in December 2014.[10]

As of 2016, the main role of No. 5 Flight is to maintain the RAAF's expertise in operating UAVs until more capable types such as the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton are delivered.[11]

No. 5 Flight was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation in the Queen's birthday Honours on the 13 June 2016 for "sustained outstanding service in warlike operations through the provision of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability on Operation Slipper, over the period January 2010 to November 2014."[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ziesing, Katherine (2010). "Heron in Woomera this Year". Australian Defence Magazine. Vol. 19 no. 2. p. 76. 
  2. ^ a b c Curran, Aaron (9 May 2013). "SRG New Home for Heron". Air Force. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Smith, Skye (12 May 2011). "5FLT training down under". Air Force. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  4. ^ RAAF. "A New Home for Heron". RAAF News. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  5. ^ McLaughlin, Andrew (April 2010). "Nankeen. The RAAF enters the RPA era with Heron lease". Australian Aviation. No. 270 (Fyshwick: Phantom Media). p. 31. ISSN 0813-0876. 
  6. ^ Hupfeld, Mel. "Australia’s air combat capability 2010 – 2020" (PDF). Institute Proceedings. Royal United Services Institute of Australia. pp. 10–11. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Jenkins, John (December 2013). "The operational role of the Heron remotely-piloted aircraft in the Royal Australian Air Force" (PDF). United Service 64 (4): 23. 
  8. ^ "Australia’s Heron mission in Afghanistan extended" (Press release). Department of Defence. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Minister for Defence – Heron to be retained to keep Australia’s unmanned aerial capability". Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  10. ^ McLaughlin, Andrew (3 December 2014). "RAAF Heron detachment completes Afghan mission". Australian Aviation. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Frawley, Gerard (22 April 2016). "RAAF operates Heron unmanned aircraft from Amberley". Australian Aviation. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  12. ^ "Military – Distinguished & Conspicuous" (PDF). Queen's Birthday Honours List 2016. Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 14 June 2016.