The Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army worked together at the 2023 Australian International Airshow (AIA23) to create and operate a bulk refuelling station to provide a complete ADF-deployed aviation fuel capability.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army personnel conduct the first joint refuelling task supporting Australian aircraft at the Australian International Airshow, Avalon, Victoria. Story by Flight Lieutenants Steffi Blavius and Brent Moloney. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Ryan Howell.
AIA23 Base Fuel Quality Control Manager and Aviation Fuel Supervisor Sergeant Tony Ahchow thought up the innovative concept as a solution to a capability gaps discovered while working at the 2019 Airshow.
“The need for this capability comprised three key elements – firstly, to test military aviation turbine fuel in a deployed environment; secondly, to hold a stock of military jet fuel in the Army Petroleum Operators (PETOPS) deployed fuel bladder; and, finally, to demonstrate joint capability between the services,” Sergeant Ahchow said.
Army PETOPS and Air Force Movements Tanker Operations wanted to test their ability to set up fuel storage at a blank airfield.
“I see this as a force enabler and force projection to enhance our capability through joint operations,” he said.
Sergeant Ahchow has had a great experience working alongside the Army.
CAPTION: Australian Army Sergeant Paul Hague and Royal Australian Air Force Sergeant Anthony Ahchow greet each other during the first joint refuelling task supporting Australian aircraft at the Australian International Airshow, Avalon, Victoria. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Ryan Howell.
“I have never met a person who wears the ADF uniform that isn’t focused on delivering enhanced capability,” he said.
“When presented with an opportunity to operate in a joint environment to meet a consolidated mission, we see the best in people.”
Corporal Norman McLeod, of the Army’s 9 Force Support Battalion, was the Aviation Bulk Fuel Installation Site Commander for AIA23, and accustomed to employing his trade in an austere field environment – so to work alongside the RAAF at a civilian aerodrome was a refreshing opportunity.
“It has gone fairly smoothly,” Corporal McLeod said.
“The main difference I’ve noticed is that we’re now so close to civil infrastructure so we need to consider separation between the public and the fuel sites.
“This is the first time we’ve worked alongside RAAF Tanker Ops for an extended period.
“We’ve built strong lines of communication between the two services working together on the ground and fostered some great relationships.”
Fuel operations is just one instance where the ADF services are combining their skillsets to support the Australian International Airshow 2023.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army personnel conduct the first joint refuelling task supporting Australian aircraft at the Australian International Airshow, Avalon, Victoria. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Ryan Howell.