A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning, control and surveillance aircraft has set a new record by flying a 17-hour operational mission over Iraq and Syria.
The aircraft captain said that the crew initially embarked on a fairly standard mission to survey the airspace above Iraq and Syria.
“Our main mission on the day was to fly a surveillance pattern over Iraq and Syria to assist coalition strike aircraft to target Daesh forces on the ground,” he said.
“A mission of this type would normally last around 13 hours – a long time to be continuously working.
“On this occasion though, as we approached our return time and already well into the night, we were asked to continue on for a few hours longer, so we took on more fuel from a Coalition air-to-air refuelling aircraft and kept flying.
“It wasn’t until we had landed that I realised that we had hit the 17.1 hour mark – a record for an E-7A.”
The Senior Surveillance and Control Officer explained that the Coalition demand for surveillance aircraft like the Australian E-7A was substantial.
“Even before the addition of Russian operations in Syria, there was a lot happening in the region that we needed to survey,” he said.
“The Russian operations have only increased the complexity of an already very complex area, making our work even more important.
“We have a large and powerful radar that feeds data from the battle space to a crew of surveillance and control officers in the back of the aircraft who interpret that data.
“We provide all the information back to the Combined Air Operations Centre who then plan the US-led air operations in the Middle East, including for our aircraft, the KC-30A tanker and six F/A-18 Hornets.
“The crew worked really hard that day and night.
“I think everyone was really proud to be a part of the milestone, especially because we’re on operations where our work really contributes to a worthwhile objective.”
Photo by Corporal Ben Dempster