Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown has launched an ambitious plan to achieve new levels of efficiency and operational flexibility in the RAAF and broader ADF to maximise the potential offered by the fifth generation F-35 and other new capabilities into the future.
In a speech at a Williams Foundation dinner attended by high-level ADF personnel and industry executives in Canberra on May 29, CAF launched the RAAF’s ‘Plan Jericho’, an effort to knock down entrenched cultural and procedural walls in order to achieve greater capability outcomes from the capabilities offered by the F-35 and platforms like the Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft and the Navy’s forthcoming air warfare destroyers.
“We named it Jericho for a couple of reasons,” AIRMSHL Brown explained. “There is the biblical reason, but more so the appeal of the name for me was the Allied operation by 464 Squadron into France where they knocked down the walls of a Gestapo prison to free the French resistance – breaking down the walls was central to the success of Operation Jericho. Breaking down the walls, breaking down the stovepipes of Defence is central if we are actually going to realise the full capability of fifth gen capabilities.”
CAF asked attendees to adopt a fifth generation culture of interoperability where Defence and industry can work together to remove unnecessary processes and shorten capability development times, and encouraged the audience to look for new and innovative ways of operating new and upgraded capabilities.
“My appeal here is we need industry help with the development of this plan. There’s a lot of great technology being developed out there and I think it is essential that we actually partner with the industrial players here so we can maximise the potential of that fifth generation Air Force,” AIRMSHL Brown said.
“For industry you need to consider how to work with us, not just on a platform basis and not just in terms of an RFT, we need help with the intellectual horsepower in terms of thinking through how we actually maximise those fifth generation capabilities.
“If we don’t break down those stovepipes and walls that exist I think we will be fundamentally missing a great opportunity.”
CAF cited LtCol David ‘Chip’ Berke, an experienced US Marine Corps F-35B and F/A-18 pilot, who spoke at a recent Williams Foundation seminar on introducing the F-35 into RAAF service, in warning not to consider the F-35 as just a “replacement” aircraft for the F/A-18.
“The F-35 doesn’t replace anything…,” LtCol Berke said. “If you look at the F-35 as a replacement to the Hornet or Super Hornet you will undermine from day one, the real capability of the airplane. It does not replace anything, it is unique, it is revolutionary… Legacy aircraft are tactical platforms and make tactical decisions and fly tactical missions that impact the overall strategic objective. I believe there is a requirement to view the F-35 as a platform that can operate across the spectrum from tactical to strategic or anywhere in between as required.”
Said CAF: “Chip has highlighted a key opportunity: can RAAF, and more so the ADF, transform the way we fight?”
As an example of what not to do, CAF recalled his own experience of converting from the digital classic Hornet to the post-AUP F-111C where, despite being upgraded with GPS/INS digital navigation instruments, F-111 crews continued to fly missions using analogue way-point techniques.
“We can be often constrained by previous mindsets,” CAF said.
“Right now,” he warned, “I feel I am flying that digital F-111, and nobody is showing me exactly what we can achieve.”