Residents in the NSW Hunter region have been treated to a rare formation flypast from the RAAF’s No.4 Squadron’s four modified Pilatus PC-9/A (F) aircraft ahead of their retirement.
The aircraft headed north to the town of Bulahdelah before turning and heading south along the coast, passing significant local landmarks, including the Port Stephens Lighthouse and Nobbys Head, before they returned to RAAF Base Williamtown.
No. 4 Squadron’s executive officer, Squadron Leader P, said the ‘Forward Air Control Variant’ of the PC9/A had been invaluable in a joint ground-and-air unit.
“The crews operate them and interact closely and routinely with combat controllers, 2 Commando Regiment, the Combat Survival Training School, Forces Command or the Special Air Service Regiment, enhancing the value and effectiveness of the asset throughout integrated training,” SQNLDR P said.
“They have significant endurance such that Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) students can repeat training serials to meet the standard.”
The aircraft are used to train ADF JTACs who co-ordinate air support to troops on the ground, and as its fixed-wing Forward Air Controller (Airborne) capability, the only one accredited by the US military outside of the US Department of Defense.
“ADF JTACs and combat controllers that were trained or maintained proficiency with PC9/A (F) flying overhead have a soft spot for these aircraft that contributed significantly to building the skills they were able to employ in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq,” SQNLDR P said.
Under the Department of Defence’s Project AIR 5428, the Air Force will receive a new pilot training system underpinned by the PC-21 aircraft. No. 4 Squadron will receive four of the 49 new PC-21s, which will give an updated operational training capability.
The aircraft are scheduled for retirement in October, with the introduction of the new PC-21 aircraft expected in early 2020.
Until then, the PC-9s will continue to support Army and Air Force training.