Government Whip in the Legislative Council

Liberal Member in the Parliament of South Australia




RAAF Base Edinburgh Air Show

Wednesday 13 November, 2019

 I rise today to commend the RAAF Base Edinburgh Air Show, which I attended on Sunday 10 November 2019. The air show marks one of many events on this year's calendar celebrating the epic flight centenary of the South Australian brothers, Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith. I have previously spoken in this place about the history of the Smith brothers' flight from London to Australia in their Vickers Vimy aircraft, when they won the great air race of 1919 in less than 28 days.

I will also be speaking to a motion moved by the Hon. Frank Pangallo shortly regarding the Vickers Vimy flight centenary, therefore I will not go into the history or details of the Smith brothers' flight on this occasion. However, the theme of the RAAF Base Edinburgh Air Show this year, Vimy to Fifth Generation in 100 years, celebrates not only the achievements of the Smith brothers' flight 100 years ago but the remarkable evolution of aviation since and 98 years of distinguished military service.

South Australia has an important involvement with and makes an ongoing contribution to Australia's defence sector. The Defence Precinct is a key national operational base, research, manufacturing and sustainment hub, which includes the RAAF Base Edinburgh, Defence Science and Technology Group, Edinburgh Parks and the Woomera Range Complex.

The RAAF Base Edinburgh is one of the Air Force's largest and most important air bases, which is driving innovation and integration across the Air Force. Edinburgh boasts a defence presence dating back to World War II, with the largest munitions plant in the Southern Hemisphere established in Penfield, a small village to the south of the base, in 1942. Today, the Defence Precinct has over 6,500 RAAF and Army personnel, defence civilians and contractors working at the operationally-focused joint defence establishment and is the Australian Defence Force's major intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare hub.

The air show on Sunday was an exceptional showcase of the Royal Australian Air Force's newest and most advanced aircraft, both in the air and on the ground. One particularly impressive aircraft was the F-35A Lightning II, which is able to fly at speeds in excess of 2,000 km/h, performing right-angle turns at high speed. The F-35A, or Joint Strike Fighter, is the culmination of over two decades of research between the United States, Australia and our allies.

Beginning in 1996, the US set out to turn its fifth-generation fighter into a plane which could perform multiple combat roles and replace its ageing fleet of F-16s, F/A-18s, A10 Warthogs and the AV-8B Harriers. With cooperation from its allied nations, the Joint Strike Fighter program was developed and three variants of the F-35 were created.

Australia will utilise the F-35A variant of the plane to replace its fleet of F/A-18s, and has ordered 72, with the possibility in the future of this increasing to 100 aircraft. South Australia has played an integral part in the development of the Joint Strike Fighter program. Adelaide company Axiom manufactures vertical tails for the F-35, while BAE Systems produces titanium parts for the aircraft at Edinburgh Parks. Australia accepted its first F-35 in 2018 and, with additional planes being delivered as they pass their final tests, this new fighter will soon help to combat ever-evolving threats in a highly technological future.

The air show itself also featured some classic warbirds and museum favourites, showing how far aviation really has come since the great air race of 1919. Not only showcasing some of the Air Force's best aircraft, there was also a range of displays from across our Defence Force, including the Army, the Navy and the Australian defence industry. It was a spectacular event and a great opportunity to meet some of our talented air men and women.

I would like to personally thank Air Commodore Phil Gordon for the hospitality, insight and knowledge he provided to me on the day. I was fascinated to learn about his career to date. He has quite the impressive list of accomplishments and life experiences. Like many of our service personnel, Air Commodore Phil Gordon is certainly someone we can and should be very proud of. To continue showcasing the incredible and ever-evolving technological advances of our defence aircraft, I hope to see more South Australian air show events, such as the RAAF Base Edinburgh Air Show, in years to come.

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