Mobile system allows air traffic team to take control

It’s an airfield structure you would expect to see at almost any active runway in Australia, the air traffic control tower can usually be spotted silhouetted against the sky well above its surroundings.

CAPTIONRoyal Australian Air Force air traffic control officers Flying Officer Adam Roberts and Flying Officer Leigh Cremin in the transportable air operations tower at RAAF Base Curtin, WA, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023. Story by Flying Officer Connor Bellhouse. Photos by Leading Aircraftwoman Annika Smit.

At a contingency air base like RAAF Base Curtin, however, there is no tower. To conduct complex air operations, 44 Wing sends one of its state-of-the-art Deployable Defence Air Traffic Management and Control systems to the centre of the airbase.

Consisting of a transportable air operations tower, approach cell, communications links and support equipment, the system is capable of deploying over large distances to project air power from remote bases and austere airfields.

Squadron Leader Vanessa Stothart, the Air Traffic Control Detachment Commander at RAAF Base Curtin, said 44 Wing assigned both an approach and tower service this year, bringing the Curtin’s air traffic control capability closer to what would be provided at an established airfield.

“The equipment for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 has included a new approach service, the Deployable Defence Air Traffic Management and Control System, which arrived as part of the first convoy to reach Curtin,” Squadron Leader Stothart said.

“This system enables us to provide coverage out to around 100 nautical miles from the airfield, which means we have greater situational awareness of the air space surrounding Curtin.”

CAPTIONThe Royal Australian Air Force 44 Wing Deployable Defence Air Traffic Management and Control System Operations Cabin and Transportable Air Operations Tower set up at RAAF Base Curtin, WA, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023.

The opportunity for 44 Wing to deploy this level of capability into a remote environment like RAAF Base Curtin provides important, real-time experience for controllers and technicians.

“It’s important that our controllers and technicians have the opportunity to exercise this process to ensure that we know our timelines to become operationally ready in a location and start providing air traffic control capability,” Squadron Leader Stothart said.

“The team have benefited from the environment and practices here at RAAF Base Curtin which can be different from the way we operate from our home base locations.”

With equipment that can be set up and packed down within 72 hours, 44 Wing’s Deployable Air Traffic Control Flight will continue to be central to the projection of air power from Australia’s remote northern bases.


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