The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has flown the Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) for the first time from a major Australian Air Force base. From 13th – 22nd April, the Heron operated from RAAF Base Amberley and transited through military airspace alongside C-17A Globemaster III, F/A-18F Super Hornets and KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft.
The operation, which tested multiple operating scenarios, marks the first time the aircraft has flown in military airspace in Australia outside of the Woomera Test Range and Shoalwater Bay Training Area. The goal is to further expand Heron operations and ensure integration of the RPA into non-segregated airspace.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are destined to play a pivotal role in the RAAF in the coming years. In addition to the Heron, the Australian Government has committed to acquiring the much larger MQ-4C Triton, the navalised version of the Global Hawk being developed for the U.S. Navy. Based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, the MQ-4C Triton will complement the manned P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, providing advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capabilities.
Australian personnel are currently carrying out training on the MQ-9 Reaper with the U.S. Air Force to ensure that Air Force personnel maintain their skills in a cost-effective manner, until the introduction of the MQ-4C Triton into Australian service.