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Exercise WILLOH

By W/O1 Damon Mitchell

Formation flying: RAAF No 3 SQN F-18 Hornets. OH-10-0230-035.
Formation flying

Exercise WILLOH provided NZ Army Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) and Joint Fires Observer (JFO) personnel a unique opportunity to gain Close Air Support (CAS) training with fast air assets within New Zealand.

The deployment of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to NZ for Ex WILLOH is an example of the NZ Defence Force and Australian Defence Force (ADF) once again training together to meet common objectives. Ex WILLOH was also an example of air and land forces operating in support of each other—‘Joint’ training.

The ground-based assets also included indirect fire assets firing in support of the CAS missions. The NZ Army, in recent years, has been attempting to regenerate a small group of personnel with skills to conduct CAS tasks in support of ground based forces. Once JTAC’S are qualified there are strict currency requirements that must be maintained on a biannual basis. These include the requirement to conduct CAS training with ‘fast air’ aircraft, something that has been impossible to achieve in recent years.

Management of the training area airspace during the training was coordinated by the JTAC’s. This enabled the indirect fire assets to continue firing while the aircraft were operating within the training area. A mix of both lateral and attitude separation methods were employed during the training. Airspace Coordination Measures were employed effectively, with minimal effort by all exercise participants.

The training involved both day and night sorties. No live ordnance was dropped during the exercise; however the RAAF supplied a quantity of Laser Guided Training Rounds (LGTRs)—a practice bomb fitted with a laser guidance kit. The Laser Target Designators (LTDs) were provided by the NZ Defence Force.

LTD’s are most commonly associated with assisting the delivery of kinetic effect on targets but they are also very useful in assisting with the positive identification of objects/areas to aircraft. This assists in reducing the possibility of fratricide against friendly forces.

The RAAF deployed to New Zealand with target acquisition pods that enabled a wide range of capabilities to be employed. Some of the targeting pod capabilities were laser designation, infra red laser spot and a forward looking infra red (FLIR) full motion video capability. The benefit of the FLIR video to the JTAC’s was the ability to see exactly the same image that is displayed to the pilot, through the use of a Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) terminal. A major benefit of the ROVER terminal is it decreases the amount of time it takes the pilot to visually acquire the intended target, by day or by night.

Exercise WILLOH was an Anzac success that reinforced the ability of NZ Defence Force personnel to operate with ADF personnel at a tactical level. Hopefully, the ADF will return to New Zealand for future exercises involving CAS aircraft.

Combat fighter training

Exercise WILLOH 2010 saw members of the RAAF on exercise with the New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force, from 29 March–13 April.

Flying in on four F/A-18 Hornet fighters, the RAAF’s No 3 Squadron enjoyed Kiwi hospitality at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea.

Exercise WILLOH 2010 enabled personnel to develop the skills they need to call in assistance in the event of combat situations while on deployment. In addition the F/A -18s will be used in fighter evasion training with the RNZAF’s No 40 Squadron, which provides tactical and strategic air transport around the world.

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