RAAF students will be tasked with dispatching Pilatus PC-21s to RAAF Base Townsville next week as part of Exercise Black Dagger.
The training exercise is the closing activity for No. 71 Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Course and will require new recruits to coordinate the live and simulated employment of aircraft.
Commanding Officer No. 4 Squadron, Wing Commander Sean Jobson, said the exercise was a critical component of JTAC training as it enabled students to consolidate learning from throughout the course.
“Exercise Black Dagger enables the students to execute all phases of close air support missions, from the planning and briefing to the controlling and reporting,” Wing Commander Jobson said.
“The exercise is a live-fire activity which ensures the JTACs are ready to utilise close air support operationally, in support of the joint force.”
No. 4 Squadron will deploy Pilatus PC-21 aircraft, and be supported by F-35A Lightning II aircraft from No. 77 Squadron.
Aircraft will also operate into the Townsville Field and Shoalwater Bay Training Areas.
Commanding Officer No. 77 Squadron, Wing Commander Paul Simmons, said Exercise Black Dagger provided a crucial opportunity for an operational F-35A squadron to undertake high-intensity live weapon preparation in support of the joint force.
“The F-35A is an essential fifth-generation capability that suppresses and destroys advanced enemy defences and systems, reducing the risk in the battlespace. It enables the joint force to prosecute defence missions at a lower risk to personnel and higher probability of success,” Wing Commander Simmons said.
“This is a role No. 77 Squadron has embraced and excelled at since its formation in March 1942.”
The PC-21 replaced the RAAF’s PC-9/A aircraft, which were displayed for the last time in 2019 after 30 years of service.
The PC-21 boasts some of the biggest advances in technology, including a pressurised cockpit, air conditioning, an anti-G system, onboard oxygen generation and a digital power management system.
It is powered by a Pratt and Whitney PT6A-68B turboprop engine and has a 9.1-metre wingspan. The RAAF took on the last aircraft of the fleet in 2019, and now boasts 49 of the type.
It was first purchased in 2015, after the Australian Defence Force signed a $1.2 billion contract to deliver the new pilot training jets.
Australian Aviation reported in May how the RAAF began streamlining recruit training under a “less is more” approach to graduate trainees quicker and more efficiently.
Under the new system, 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) – which is responsible for two-thirds of the Air Force’s initial preparation – will reduce from 11 weeks to nine, and its training block will be tightened.
RAAF Officer Training School, which conducts the bulk of the remaining training, will see a more significant reduction from 17 to 12 weeks.