Combat support for air operations


Not well known outside Air Force circles is a major Defence capability that has its headquarters at RAAF Amberley.

Combat Support Group provides flying squadrons with world class air base support critical to the conduct of air operations in Australia and while deployed on missions overseas. CSG activates and secures air bases, enabling squadrons to operate in potentially hazardous combat-related roles knowing that the air base, wherever it may be in the world, can support the mission rate of effort.

Commander CSG, Air Commodore Scott Winchester, says that supporting Australian Defence Force flying operations is “the reason we exist, quite frankly.”

“We focus on three main areas. We provide Air Force’s expeditionary combat support capability, essentially our ability to set up an air base away from fixed air bases. Secondly, we manage our 14 fixed air bases around Australia, providing air base services for flying squadrons to generate and sustain air power. Thirdly, we provide the Air Force’s expeditionary health capability; being able to conduct aeromedical evacuations of military and also civilian personnel.”

This is an important role for CSG, in partnership with the air mobility squadrons. “We can stabilise sick and wounded patients, put them on an aircraft and fly them out to safety, with medical treatment provided onboard the flight,” AIRCDRE Winchester said. “We can also set up on-location medical facilities ranging from a first aid section to a mini-hospital with surgical capability.”

The Combat Support solution is considered a world leader in supporting air combat operations. “I think it is world class. Shortly after CSG was formed 18 years ago we deployed to East Timor,” the Commander said. “We ran two airfields up there so we ‘cut our teeth’ as a group early on, and since then we have operated in the Middle East for more than a decade. In that time we’ve done bare base activations and provided a range of expeditionary combat support services – and that’s our core business.

“We also need to keep pace with developments in air power and be ready to set up those expeditionary airbase services at a moment’s notice.”

RAAF Amberley is one of the bases supported by CSG, and it is the largest air base in Australia. “The base currently has about 5,800 personnel consisting of about 3,800 Air Force, about 800 Australian Army, a few hundred Defence civilians and, of note, about 1200 Defence contractor staff,” AIRCDRE Winchester said.

“We are expecting that by the end of the decade there will be about 7000 personnel on-base, with new squadrons coming here including an additional Australian Army unit and an Air Force squadron, making Amberley Australia’s largest Defence base.”

Commander CSG carries out duties as the senior Air Force officer in Queensland.

“Defence maintains a close relationship with the City of Ipswich and the broader southeast Queensland community, and if there’s a senior leadership decision needed then I’m the one who makes that decision,” he said.

CSG’s 25 units spread across Australia and at Butterworth in Malaysia maintain a close relationship with the flying squadrons.

“We plan for the major Defence activities and the normal on-base tasks that we call ‘raise, train and sustain’ activities, plus CSG-related training,” AIRCDRE Winchester said.

“Our focus for the future is to maintain continuing capability in our three primary roles and to ensure that we keep pace with what we call our ‘5th Generation Air Force’, with the new and advanced aircraft and systems being introduced into service.

“We are determined that our air base capabilities keep pace with our capabilities in the air, that our services are modernised, digitised and synchronised with the new combat air capabilities.”