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The United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) share a long and proud history of cooperation and professional interaction since the Second World War. Our respective Services have been fighting side by side for many decades, from the Pacific theatre when our respective aircrews flew combat missions together over New Guinea in the dark days of 1942, to the Korean conflict, Vietnam, and the current Middle-East area of operations. Our nations are extremely close allies and friends, sharing a bond forged closer as a result of the Global War on Terror.
The fluid strategic environment since the Cold War has resulted in USAF and RAAF becoming agile and expeditionary-focused air forces capable of providing a wide range of rapid response options, the effective provision of Agile Combat Support (ACS) (1) to protect and sustain Air Force elements is fundamental to generating airpower and is d significant enabler for a balanced, expeditionary Air Force. The USAF ACS Concept of Operations (CONOPS) is one of seven Air Force CONOPS and is the foundational combat support CONOPS of that Air Force. (2) The level of combat support must be consistent with the operational requirement, an needs to be flexible and responsive. Furthermore, the likelihood of coalition operations is very high, with close cooperation and interoperability between coalition forces vital to generate and sustain airpower. ACS capabilities must be able to incorporate Joint and coalition elements into a USAF, RAAF, or other coalition member-led force.
The USAF and RAAF could expect to join a coalition as either the lead air force or as a contributor. Coalition partnerships prosper when there is a sound understanding of each others capabilities, with different air forces bringing important specialist capabilities to the fight. Hearing another perspective on ACS also expands our own understanding of this important force enabler; what aspects are shared, and what aspects are done differently.
The aim of this article is two-fold: first, outlining how ACS is provided at the tactical level by RAAF, providing a smaller Air Force perspective on ACS and second, outlining ACS interoperability issues between the RAAF and USAF. (3) The article initially outlines the broad principles regarding Australian Defence Force (ADF) airbase doctrine, providing a brief outline of how RAAF is structured to deliver airpower, describing the role and structure of the Combat Support Group (CSG), and outlining the expeditionary combat support capabilities RAAF can bring to the fight. The article then outlines the key points of RAAF tactical level ACS, before detailing recent RAAF operational experience, and the exercise and training hierarchy. The RAAF ACS capability management structure is then briefly explained. Finally, this article details ACS interoperability issues between RAAF and USAF, and outlines the writer's own reflections from working with USAF.
Australian Defence Force Publication 3.15 (ADDP 3.15), Airbase Operations (provisional release) provides the doctrinal framework regarding airbase operations for the ADF, detailing the roles and functions of an airbase, its infrastructure, and force protection requirements to generate airpower and sustain operations. (4) ADDP 3.15 emphasizes airbases are:
* Weapons systems to generate, operate, and sustain airpower missions,
* Pivotal Joint capability that can support a range of operations from special operations; surveillance and reconnaissance; entry, exit, and sustainment points for land operations; and evacuation points. An airbase may need to support one or any combination of operations concurrently.
An airbase needs to be a safe, secure, and effective platform to conduct air operations. With airbase support being operational in nature, it should not be confused with support as defined under logistics or other military doctrine.
Delivery of RAAF Airpower
First, let me provide some perspective. The RAAF's permanent force (active duty equivalent) is 13,500 personnel, with approximately 2,500 reservists. (5) Air Command is the RAAF warfighter major command equivalent, responsible for raising, training, and sustaining Air Force capabilities provided to a Joint Force Commander. Air Command is organized into six force element groups (FEGs). (6)
* Air Combat Group operates F/A-18 fighter, F-111 strike, and Hawk jet training aircraft. F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet aircraft will replace the F-111 fleet after 2010. Australia is a Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project partner.
* Air Lift Group operates the C-17, C-130, B-707, Caribou, and the VIP aircraft fleet, and is receiving KC-30B refueller/ strategic airlifters in the future to replace the B-707.
* Surveillance and Response Group (SRG) operates maritime P3C aircraft, and commands the air defence and air traffic control elements, and will receive airborne early warning and control aircraft in the next few years.
* Air Force Training Group is responsible for air and ground …