The RAAF’s Williamtown-based 4SQN will soon retire the four Pilatus PC-9/A(F)s it uses for the training of forward air controller (FAC) and joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC).
The aircraft – which are modified from the standard PC-9/A advanced trainers operated by Central Flying School (CFS) at East Sale, and 2FTS at Pearce – feature wing pylons capable of carrying auxiliary fuel tanks and smoke grenade launchers, as well as additional radios, infrared laser pointers, and night vision equipment.
4SQN’s executive officer, SQNLDR ‘P’ said the forward air control (F) variant of the PC9/A had been invaluable in a joint ground-and-air unit. “The crews operate them and interact closely and routinely with combat controllers, 2 Commando Regiment, the Combat Survival Training School, Forces Command or the Special Air Service Regiment, enhancing the value and effectiveness of the asset throughout integrated training,” he said in a statement.
“They have significant endurance such that Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) students can repeat training serials to meet the standard.”
While the PC-9A(F)s are not considered operational JTAC aircraft, they have served a vital role in the training of FACs and JTACs, initially as the Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU) element of Air Combat Group (ACG), and later as a stand-alone squadron.
“ADF JTACs and combat controllers that were trained or maintained proficiency with PC9/A(F) flying overhead have a soft spot for these aircraft that contributed significantly to building the skills they were able to employ in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq,” SQNLDR P said.
The aircraft will be replaced in service by the PC-21, the first of which painted in 4SQN’s distinctive low viz grey scheme was noted at Pilatus’ Stanz facility in June.