It has been a long time since the last RAAF Airshow was staged at the RAAF Base North of Adelaide. Some might say it was worth the wait. The Royal Australian Air Force staged a great airshow with the weather on their side over the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October 2019.
Today, the base is home to two squadrons, these being No 10 Squadron flying the remaining Lockeed AP-3C Orions, and No 11 Squadron flying the Boeing P-8A Poseidon which is replacing the former. Number 10 Squadron currently operate the remaining pair of AP-3C Orions on strength, these being heavily modified, and operate in the specialist ELINT (electronic intelligence) role. This pair in time will soon be replaced by the new Gulfstream MC-55A Peregrine, a version of the G550 business jet configured for Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare (AISREW), which are currently being built and modified for their new roles.
History of the base:
RAAF Edinburgh was constructed in 1955 as a support base for weapons development at the joint UK-Australian Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) at Woomera. This support had previously been temporarily based at Mallala. The base was located alongside the wartime Salisbury Explosives factory, in open fields between the then, country villages of Salisbury (to the south) and Smithfield (to the north).
Support for the Weapons Research Establishment testing activities had greatly reduced by the late 1960s. Edinburgh’s major role changed in 1977 when No. 10 Reconnaissance Squadron was relocated to South Australia from RAAF Base Townsville, which had been the centre of Australia’s maritime reconnaissance operations since the Second World War. Edinburgh has since been home to the Air Forces Maritime Patrol Group, as well as No 1 Recruit Training Unit, the Institute of Aviation Medicine (AVMED), and the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), previously based and established at Laverton, in Victoria.
Originally, RAAF Edinburgh and the DSTO were located in Salisbury. In 1997, the Department of Defence decided to rationalise the then “DSTO Salisbury” site and sell off about 70% of the site, and surrounding “Defence-owned” crown land, to form the “Edinburgh Parks” industrial estate. The suburb of Salisbury was split in two, with the part containing the RAAF Base and DSTO renamed “Edinburgh” (after the RAAF Base).
In 2017 it was announced that the main runway would be extended by 275 metres (902 ft) to enable it to be used by the Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which have replaced the Lockheed AP-3C Orion fleet.
In 2018 it was announced that the RAAF would be acquiring the MQ-4C Triton Maritime Surveillance Drones, which would be delivered in 2023.
Seven Tritons will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh and will operate alongside the P-8A Poseidon to replace the AP-3C Orions. The endurance of the Triton means that it can stay airborne for longer than a traditional aircraft where the pilot is inside.
Two new types which will also operate from Edinburgh, are the MC-55A Peregrine and the MQ-9 Reaper. Both will serve in very different roles further enhancing the RAAFs capabilities. To cater for these new types and their required support has seen defence initiate a program to turn the base into a ‘Superbase’. This includes new hangars, workshops, hardstands, plus headquarters along with the development of the runways and taxiways.
The two-day event showcased the advances in aviation technology during the 100 years since Sir Ross and Keith Smith made their epic flight from England to Australia in 1919. Hence the ‘Vimy to Fifth Generation in 100 years’ tag. For more information on this epic flight please see Sid Mitchell’s great article here: https://aviationspottersonline.com/the-great-air-race-of-1919-100-years-on/
The Australian Defence Forces showcased a large list of both current and historic military aircraft, including the latest fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II.
A great array of aircraft was on display during the show with nearly an example of every RAAF type in service. This was also added to with general aircraft, airliner, various warbirds, including medical and vintage aircraft also on display.
Boeing C-17A Globemaster III
One of eight of the type in RAAF service, 36 Squadron based at RAAF Amberley presented A41-211 to the crowds. It was also accompanied by A41-209 which flew the aerial displays.
Crowds saw more than four hours of flying displays on each day with the full range of ADF fast jets, transport and rotary wing aircraft taking part in the show. Some of the highlights were the first 6 ship display by the RAAF’s aerobatic display team the Roulettes in their Pilatus PC-21s in South Australia.
Residents of South Australia were treated to some of the final public displays of the RAAF’s Classic Hornet fleet, and the first major public display in South Australia of the Air Forces fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II.
Warbird and Vintage displays
Some of the earliest days of RAAF flying was represented by three early types flown by the service during World War Two. All three were De Havilland types. The DH.84 Dragon, DH.94 Moth Minor and the DH.82 Tigermoth, all formed part of the service as it evolved in the early part of the war.
Heritage Trainers display
During the event, a trio of ex RAAF training aircraft took to the skies, giving airshow attendees a glimpse at these important aircraft. It consisted of a pair of NZAI CT-4 Airtrainers, plus a single CAC CA-25 Winjeel that graced the skies above Edinburgh. The three aircraft are owned and operated by the following – Winjeel VH-FTS flown by the RAAF Historic Flight, CT-4 A19-040 VH-CTK owned by Murray Wallace and finally VH-CTV owned by Garry Herne.
CAC CA-16 Wirraway
All the way from Queensland was the Warplanes Trust CAC CA-16 Wirraway, VH-MFW. This significant airframe served with the RAAF as A20-695, and after it’s time as a trainer, spent time after modification as a target tug. After military service, it was stored at CAC’s Fishermans Bend plant as a template for the production of the CA-28 Ceres, that unfortunately never eventuated. It was then slated for civil restoration that commenced in 1993, with its first post-restoration flight on the 08/07/97.
Cessna A-37A Dragonfly
The Cessna A-37B Dragonfly is a development of an aircraft originally designed in 1952 as a trainer for the US Air Force. The A-37B in its current configuration is designed as a ground attack aircraft and was developed to meet the COIN (counter-insurgency) role. The Temora Aviation Museum brought VH-XVA to the event where it put on a fantastic display.
Temora Pair, joined by SA local
A spectacular formation at the airshow was the first pairing of the Lockheed Hudson and two CAC Boomerangs in the air together. The Temora based Hudson, the only one of its type flying, took to the skies to fly with the only airworthy Boomerangs in the country. The Temora based VH-MHR, was joined by VH-XBL, which is owned by Jim Whalley of Adelaide. Jim’s Father flew the very same aircraft in operations from Horn Island, Cape York in March 1943 during WWII.
British Pair, Supermarine Spitfire & Hawker Hurricane
Flying together and in solo performances were the Temora Aviation Museum (now part of the RAAF Heritage Group) Spitfire Mk.VIII and the Scone based Hawker Hurricane Mk XII.
America vs Great Britain
A great pairing of the Spitfire and the Mustang also allowed people to not only see the difference between the two aircraft but also the sound, even though the two aircraft are powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin engine. The Temora based Spitfire Mk VIII was paired with the Queensland based CAC built CA-18 Mustang VH-MFT.
CAC CA-18 Mustang
Another Mustang on display was VH-AGJ. Owned by Jeff Trappett, from Morwell Victoria. A68-118 has been an integral part of the Australian Warbird seen for many years. Accepted by the RAAF after the conclusion of World War Two, this Mustang had a short stay with the military before being purchased by Wilmore Aviation Services in Moorabbin. Refurbished for the civilian market, the aircraft was then registered as VH-WAS. Jeff squired the aircraft in 1978 where it was restored and reflew as VH-AGJ.
Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk
Paul Benett Airshows displayed the Vintage Fighter Restorations P-40E, based at Scone. The P-40 is finished in the colour scheme of a 3 Squadron RAAF P-40E, wearing the serial ET953, with Squadron code CV-V, the aircraft of Robert Henry Maxwell (Bobby) Gibbes, DSO, DFC and Bar, OAM who became the commanding officer of No. 3 Squadron, North Africa. VH-KTY is part of the stable of aircraft owned by the Pay family.
The aircraft never flew with the RAAF, as it was originally allocated to the RAF as ET433. This wasn’t taken up as the aircraft and was diverted to Australia later in 1942, and allocated to the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) 68th Pursuit Squadron, Tonga. After its time with the USAAF on the 27th of October 1942, the P-40 was transferred to the RNZAF as NZ3094.
Gloster Meteor F.8
The only flying example in Australia, the Temora Aviation Museum operates VH-MBX, an F.8 version of the Gloster Meteor. In 1951 Meteors entered regular service with the RAAF, and they did so with a true “baptism of fire”. Meteor F.8 aircraft were taken into action by 77 Squadron RAAF, in Korea, against the Mig-15.
This example built by Gloster in 1949 carried RAF serial number VZ467, serving until 1982. Today the aircraft flies carrying the markings of Korean War-era Meteor A77-851 operated by RAAF 77 Squadron and flown by Sgt. George Hale.
The PC-21 has replaced the Air Force’s PC-9/A fleet. This intern has meant the Air Forces display team the Roulettes, has also transitioned to the new PC-21.
The majority of the are operated from bases at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia. Another squadron based at RAAF Williamtown, No 4 Squadron also operated a small fleet of FAC (Forward Air Control) versions of the PC-9A. These too have been replaced by the PC-21.
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet
A great performance and one which sadly is one of very few left was flown by the Hornet team. Some fantastic high energy manoeuvres saw the ‘Classic’ Hornet show its still no slouch.
Some seventy five F/A-18A and two seat B models were ordered, with deliveries commencing in 1985. Now after thirty three years of service the fleet, and its operational squadrons, have begun winding down and transitioning to the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighting II. Number 3 Squadron has withdrawn the type from service leaving 77, 75 as the sole operators as 2OCU has finally retired the type after completing its last Hornet conversion course this year.
HARS in the air and on the ground
The Historical Aircraft and Restoration Society or HARS, as it is simply known, brought along a selection of their former RAAF types to the show with all putting on some great displays. From the World War Two era Consolidated PBY Catalina, its 50’s replacement the Lockheed SP-2H Neptune, recently retired Lockheed AP-3C Orion to the slow and roaring radials from the De Havilland DHC-4 Caribou all aircraft showed their lines off beautifully by their operational crews.
Alenia C-27J Spartan
The RAAF ordered ten Alenia C-27J Spartans in 2012, to replace the DHC-4 Caribou which was retired in 2009. The C-27J Spartan is a battlefield airlifter. It fills the gap between the CH-47F Chinook and the C-130J Hercules. The aircraft are based at RAAF Richmond and flown by 35 Squadron. Aircraft A34-007 displayed in the air at the show, A34-005 on static display.
Lockheed C-130J Hercules
Also flown in from its base at RAAF Richmond by a crew from 37 Squadron. A fleet of twelve C-130J Hercules are operated from RAAF Base Richmond in New South Wales. Operated by No. 37 Squadron the fleet entered service in 1999, replacing the C-130E models. The RAAF has flown the A, E, H and J model since the A model entered service in 1958. A97-465 was the aircraft displayed in the air with A97- 440 as the static display aircraft.
Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II
The shows star of course was the South Australian debut of the RAAF’s latest fighter, The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The F-35A is now currently in the process of replacing the long-serving F/A-18A Hornet. Some 75 examples of the latest fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter will enter service over the coming years. A35-016 was the display airframe over the weekend that put on a dazzling show for the gathered crowds.
KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT)
The KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) is a heavily modified Airbus A330 airliner, and enables Air Force to conduct air-to-air refuelling and provide strategic air lift.
It features advanced communication and navigation systems, and an electronic warfare self-protection system for shielding against threats from surface-to-air missiles. The Air Force’s six KC-30A aircraft are based at RAAF Base Amberley, operated by No. 33 Squadron. In 2015, Government announced the purchase of a sixth and seventh KC-30A aircraft. Since September 2014, a single KC-30A has been deployed to the Middle East Region for Operation OKRA.
Boeing E-7A Wedgetail
Based at RAAF Base Williamtown, six E-7A Wedgetails significantly improve the effectiveness of the Australian Defence Force. They are capable of communicating with other aircraft and providing air control from the sky, and can cover four million square kilometres during a single 10-hour mission.
The E-7A Wedgetail has participated in Exercise Bersama Lima, Cope North, Red Flag, and Pitch Black. It is currently deployed on Operation OKRA. At the airshow A30-004 was seen in the skies and A30-002 on static display.
Boeing P-8A Poseidon
The RAAF’s latest in maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response roles aircraft, the Boeing P-8A Poseidon was displayed at Edinburgh for the first time. Fifteen of these highly sophisticated aircraft are set to join the RAAF based out of RAAF Base Edinburgh. Several aircraft were on display during the event. A47-008 displayed in the air with A47-011 and 009 on static display.
Boeing C-17A Globemaster III
The huge Boeing C-17A Globemaster put on a very aerobatic display which always surprises many people. Operated by number 36 Squadron, the Squadron’s official crest, depicts a horse intended to symbolise strength, speed, mobility and dependability. The unit’s motto is “Sure”.
Royal Australian Navy
Not to be left out the Royal Australian Navy displayed all the way from its home base at Nowra the Royal Australian Navy’s latest helicopter. One of twenty four MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ models now in service.
The show was an exceptional display of aircraft and ground displays put on by defence. Aviation Spotters Online would like to publicly thank Defence for their support provided to the ASO team. Without whom this article wouldn’t be possible. Mark and Dave certainly enjoyed the time spent with crews who provided their insights and time.