GUNNEDAH’S eye in the sky is flying the coop after more than a year monitoring aircraft movement in the area.
The advanced, mobile radar equipment was shutdown on Friday after a successful 15-month surveillance activity known as Parrot Watch.
Stationed on Porcupine Ridge, south of Gunnedah, the operation involved personnel from RAAF’s Number 41 Wing who assisted Basic Flight Training School (BFTS) missions out of Tamworth using the Lockheed Martin Tactical Air Defence Radar System (TADRS).
The project assessed the level of aircraft traffic, which was more more than they anticipated, and implement systems in flying school aircraft to help keep pilots safe in the sky.
Flight Sergeant Darren Rhodes said it was also invaluable practical training for RAAF personnel manning the radar.
“The training benefit has been massive,” he said.
Usually these activities run for only a short duration and focused on tactical aspects. But having a “long-term, settled approach” meant trainees could concentrate more on “fault finding and technological training” in their roles.
Another of the Parrot Watch crew, Sergeant Beasley, was on his eighth, 4-6 week stint in Gunnedah for the radar mission.
The training benefit has been massive
He found the Gunnedah community very welcoming and said a highlight was marching alongside local veterans on Anzac Day.
Lockheed Martin TADRS project manager David Deane, who coincidentally grew up in Gunnedah, said the radar offered the department of defence one of the best mobile capabilities money could buy.
In detection terms, he said “it turns night into day” and was strong enough to reach as far as Australia’s east coast from Gunnedah.
During the deployment, Number 41 Wing personnel provided 278 days of operational support to BFTS activities, which featured more than 14,000 aircraft flights.
The Department of Defence said these radars have been deployed throughout Australia in support of many international and domestic operations and exercises including Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the G20 Australia Summit.
It was also deployed to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan from 2007-2009 with the Mobile Control and Reporting Centre for Operation Slipper.