by Charbel Kadib 

Defence has rubber-stamped its order for a fleet of Schiebel S-100 Camcopter drones to be operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

It comes after prime Raytheon Australia pledged to set up an Asia-Pacific manufacturing and sustainment hub for the device in the Shoalhaven region of NSW.

The company is now expected to work with Defence via a request for tender (RFT) procurement process before presenting to the government for a “Second Pass” decision later this year.

Defence has stressed it is yet to determine the size of a prospective S-100 Camcopter fleet and the value of the future contract, despite reports claiming 40 drones were ordered for a combined cost of $1.3 billion.

In a statement to Defence Connect, the department revealed as a result of its decision, the “SEA 129 Phase 5 Maritime Unmanned Aircraft System Project” could achieve initial operating capability (IOC) 18 months ahead of schedule.

“Accelerating Australia’s acquisition of remote and autonomous systems is critical to protecting Australia and its interests,” the spokesperson said.

Defence has also addressed concerns regarding the Camcopter’s use by hostile nations, including China and Russia, with the platform operated by over 16 maritime organisations on 17 classes of ships around the world.

“Defence conducted due diligence background checks and is aware of the number of systems in use internationally,” the spokesperson added.

The prospective Royal Australian Navy drones are set to be modified with “significantly different” mission sensors ahead of delivery.

“Defence has robust processes to ensure any platform introduced into service does not create vulnerabilities,” the spokesperson stated.

“In the case of the S-100, working with Raytheon Australia as the prime system integrator, all relevant systems will be scrutinised and approved to ensure the appropriate level of protection is in place.”

Schiebel has not conducted defence business with China since early 2015, and last supplied UAVs to a Russian commercial entity in 2015 for civilian use. Intellectual property rights or data were not shared with the Russian customer.

The unmanned aerial system (UAS) has been on trial with the RAN since 2016 after it was selected following a request for tender (RFT) for Navy Minor Project (NMP) 1942, which sought to procure a “proven” VTOL Maritime Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System – Interim Capability (MTUAS-IC) and associated engineering and logistics support for the Navy.

Last year, Schiebel Group secured a three-year contract extension to sustain the interim test platforms, which includes field support services, engineering and logistics elements, and the establishment of a sovereign Australian Camcopter S-100 training capability, delivered by Schiebel Pacific.

The Camcopter S-100 is billed as a small-medium sized vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft made of titanium and carbon fibre materials.

The platform is designed to carry multiple payloads simultaneously for up to six hours at a time.

The Camcopter S-100 can reportedly operate day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a range out to 200 kilometres, both on land and at sea.

The unmanned aircraft can navigate automatically via pre-programmed GPS waypoints or can be operated directly with a pilot control unit.

The platform is operated via a point-and-click graphical user interface, transmitting high-definition payload imagery to the control station in real time.

By leveraging “fly-by-wire” technology controlled by redundant flight computers, the UAS can complete its mission automatically.

RSL Qld – Update on the DVA SEQ Veteran Wellbeing Centre Submission

RSL Queensland and Legacy Brisbane wanted to connect with you all regarding an update on the recent DVA South East Queensland Veteran Wellbeing Centre submission.

As discussed with you at the last ESO Forum, RSL Queensland, Mates4Mates and Legacy Brisbane made a joint submission under a consortium model to be the lead agency providing the DVA South East Queensland Veteran Wellbeing Centre. Our submission also highlighted additional partnerships and support from a significant number of ESOs in our network.

We were recently advised that our submission was not successful and last week it was announced that the Federal Government, upon completing their consultation and application process, have awarded the $5 million investment flagged for the South East Queensland network to the Moreton Bay region with the organisation, “Lives Lived Well”.

Upon the announcement we have engaged with “Lives Lived Well” to understand the proposed veteran service model. This discussion has caused RSL Queensland and Legacy Brisbane to re-engage with DVA for clarification and additional information on the selection process. While we await this feedback, we have used this conversation to invite DVA to utilise the ESO Forum to provide an overview of the support model “Lives Lived Well” have developed and facilitate discussion on how the sector may contribute to the initiative. Further to this opportunity, it is our intent to engage with “Lives Lived Well” to determine how best we may be able to directly support veterans utilising their facility in the future.

For initial information on the award to “Lives Lived Well” please see the formal announcement here

Whilst RSL Queensland and Legacy Brisbane will continue to engage with DVA regarding feedback on the submission, we wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for your contributions and support through this process. We also wanted to highlight our next steps to advancing a connected ESO and community organisation framework for veteran care in our region.

Development of the RSL Queensland/Mates4Mates centre at Stafford Rd is on track and our intent remains for this facility to be a physical representation of a connected service network, providing vetted, practical, health and wellbeing services to veterans and their families. Construction officially commenced in March with stage one of the facility due to open in late 2022, initially with RSL Queensland and Mates services.

Furthermore, Legacy Brisbane continue to plan their move to Greenslopes and develop the new Legacy House. It is planned for construction to commence by December 2022. As a result of the DVA announcement, Legacy Brisbane has commenced a capital raising campaign to raise funding for the new house. Importantly, the new Legacy House will have collaborative partners, including RSL Queensland and Mates4Mates, inside the facility and is co-located with (GMRF) and the Keith Payne Mental Health Unit located in the Greenslopes Hospital precinct.

RSL Queensland and Legacy Brisbane recognises the veteran sector is complex and is characterised by many bespoke organisations providing services and support to a significant range of health and wellbeing needs experienced by veterans and their dependents. Harnessing the benefit of these organisations and providing a framework that connects veterans to these services in a safe manner across a geographically dispersed region in SEQ will take time; as will building the framework that evaluates and reports the impact of such a network. As such, RSL Queensland and Legacy Brisbane will continue collaborating along with GMRF to develop the framework and over the course of 2022 will engage with ESOs and the community sector to develop the referral mechanisms to enable an enhanced support network.

Thank you all once again for your support of our submission, we remain committed to continuously evolving the model of care for veterans and their families and we look forward to connecting with you at the upcoming ESO Forum on June 1.

Kind Regards,

Katie Maloney
General Manager – Partnerships and Engagement
RSL Queensland

35 Squadron RAAF – Vietnam

No. 35 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) transport unit. Formed in 1942, No. 35 Squadron operated during World War II, transporting cargo and passengers around Australia, New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies, equipped with a variety of aircraft including the Douglas Dakota. It was disbanded after the war, but was re-raised in the 1960s for service during the Vietnam War, flying transportation and resupply operations with DHC-4 Caribous in support of Australian and US forces. The squadron was subsequently augmented with rotary-wing aircraft, operating UH-1 Iroquois in both the transportation and gunship roles. In the late 1980s, the squadron returned to a solely fixed-wing transport role. It ceased operations in 2000, but was re-raised in January 2013. It began re-equipping with C-27 Spartan transports in 2015.

Vietnam War

On 1 June 1966, the RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam (RTFV), which had been formed for operations in Vietnam in July 1964, was redesignated No. 35 Squadron at Vung Tau in South Vietnam. Assigned to the 834th Air DivisionSeventh Air Force, and operating DHC-4 Caribous, the re-formed squadron flew cargo, passenger and medevac flights throughout South Vietnam in support of Australian, South Vietnamese and United States forces. During its time in Vietnam the squadron was nicknamed “Wallaby Airlines”, in reference to its callsign “Wallaby”. Despite not being employed in an offensive role, the squadron’s aircraft were regularly called upon to fly into dangerous areas of the conflict zone, often at low level, and on several occasions the Caribous were fired upon and aircrew wounded.

By June 1971, the squadron’s complement of aircraft was reduced from seven to four as a part of the drawdown of Australia’s forces in Vietnam; as a result of requirements for maintenance, however, only two aircraft were operational at any one time after this. No. 35 Squadron flew its last mission on 13 February 1972 and departed South Vietnam for RAAF Base Richmond in Australia on 19 February 1972; it was the last RAAF unit to leave following the decision to withdraw. During the five years that it was deployed, the squadron lost two aircraft destroyed in accidents, the result of poor weather and the difficult nature of some of the landing grounds that the Caribous were required to use when supporting isolated garrisons. Another aircraft was destroyed from Viet Cong mortar fire, struck while conducting a resupply mission at Thất Sơn in 1970.

Although its work was not glamorous, the squadron developed a good reputation among the US air commanders as an efficient and effective unit, achieving a record that prompted US commanders to send personnel to the squadron to study their techniques. For their involvement in operations in Vietnam, members of the squadron received several honours and decorations including two appointments to the Member of the Order of British Empire, eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, one Distinguished Flying Medal, one British Empire Medal, and 36 Mentions in Despatches.


Battle of Gang Toi – Operation Hump

Vietnam.  2nd Lieutenant Clive Williams of Holsworthy, NSW (right) briefs section leaders, Corporal John Pearce of Warwick Farm, Sydney, NSW (left), and Cpl Chris Webster of Holsworthy, NSW.

The Battle of Gang Toi (8 November 1965) was fought during the Vietnam War between Australian troops and the Viet Cong. The battle was one of the first engagements between the two forces during the war and occurred when A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) struck a Viet Cong bunker system defended by Company 238 in the Gang Toi Hills, in northern Bien Hoa Province. It occurred during a major joint US-Australian operation codenamed Operation Hump, involving the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, to which 1 RAR was attached. During the latter part of the operation an Australian rifle company clashed with an entrenched company-sized Viet Cong force in well-prepared defensive positions. Meanwhile, an American paratroop battalion was also heavily engaged in fighting on the other side of the Song Dong Nai.

The Australians were unable to concentrate sufficient combat power to launch an assault on the position and consequently, they were forced to withdraw after a fierce engagement during which both sides suffered a number of casualties, reluctantly leaving behind two men who had been shot and could not be recovered due to heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Although they were most likely dead, a battalion attack to recover the missing soldiers was planned by the Australians for the next day, but this was cancelled by the American brigade commander due to rising casualties and the need to utilise all available helicopters for casualty evacuation. The bodies of the two missing Australian soldiers were subsequently recovered more than 40 years later, and were finally returned to Australia for burial.

Insertion and patrolling, 5–7 November 1965

On 5 November 1 RAR began the routine search-and-destroy operation, inserting by helicopter south of the Song Dong Nai at 08:00, while the 1/503rd was inserted onto LZ King north-west of the Song Dong Nai and Song Be rivers at 11:00. The operation started badly for the Australians and Americans with the fly-in delayed. Despite a lengthy preparation by fire, a large Viet Cong force had been observed in the vicinity of LZ Queen prior to the insertion of the lead Australian rifle company—D Company under the command of Captain Peter Rothwell. The escorting helicopter gunships began taking small arms fire as they attempted to provide suppressing fire and Rothwell made the decision to activate the alternate landing zone to the north-east, LZ Princess. D Company was subsequently inserted safely and swept back to LZ Queen, securing it for the remainder of the battalion. By mid-morning 1 RAR occupied LZ Queen, with the 105 mm L5 pack howitzers of 105 Field Battery also flying-in to provide direct support.[22] Augmenting the Australian gunners, the US 3/319 Artillery Battalion and 161st Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery occupied FSB Ace 4,000 metres (4,400 yd) further south.[23]

The scheme of manoeuvre adopted by 1 RAR dictated that each company undertake a dispersed patrol program in their own tactical area of responsibility, a fact which would allow them to search more ground, but limit their ability to concentrate combat power in the event of contact. A Company, under Major John Healy, patrolled east; B Company moved north along the Song Be to Xom Xoai, while D Company patrolled south.[23] C Company remained at LZ Queen to protect 105 Field Battery which had established a fire support base (FSB). Over the next two days the Australians patrolled relentlessly through the leech-infested swamps and dense jungle. At midday on 6 November A Company received two mortar rounds which failed to do any damage, but marked the start of a series of minor clashes. A Company had a number of contacts during this time, with the Australians killing a Viet Cong scout for the loss of two wounded in one skirmish. A further contact soon after resulted in two more Viet Cong killed and one wounded. Intelligence gained from these incidents indicated the presence of a Viet Cong Main Force Regiment in the area, while documents recovered contained plans for attacks on ARVN outposts near Bien Hoa Air Base.

By nightfall on 7 November, despite the earlier contacts, no major actions had occurred in the Australian AO. With the rifle companies now several kilometres apart, A Company had patrolled into a network of well used roads and tracks. Healy’s men spent the night astride the tracks and would resume patrolling the following day along a track which led to Hill 82. Meanwhile, although unknown to them at the time, the US 1/503rd Battalion across the Song Dong Nai had patrolled to within 2,000 metres (2,200 yd) of a major Viet Cong bunker system sited on two spur lines in the vicinity of Hill 65.

Hill 82, 8 November 1965

CO Lou Brumfield arrived by helicopter on the morning of 8 November, just as A Company was preparing to depart from its night location at 08:00.[24] With contact now seeming unlikely to the Australians, Healy was instructed to move to a rendezvous from which the battalion would be extracted back to Bien Hoa the following day. A Company subsequently set out on a compass bearing that would take them across the northern edge of the Gang Toi plateau. By 10:30 the Australians moved out in single file but had not gone far before a lone Viet Cong scout was observed shadowing them; he was subsequently shot and killed by the rear section. Crossing a creek line the Australians uncovered a company-sized camp of dugouts and trenches, before being fired upon at 15:40 by a single Viet Cong soldier who then fled. A Company halted briefly, and at this time two Viet Cong approached their position, before being killed by 1 Platoon.

The Australians continued in single file towards the top of the plateau, with 1 Platoon—under Sergeant Gordon Peterson—leading, followed by 2 and then 3 Platoon. The going was slow in the dense jungle and visibility was limited. By 16:30 the lead section was nearing the top of the hill having gone just 250 metres (270 yd), while the last platoon—3 Platoon—was still leaving the harbour. Suddenly, 1 Platoon was hit by heavy small arms fire from at least three Viet Cong machine-guns in well-sited bunkers, supported by rifles and grenades. The fire engulfed the lead section and platoon headquarters, causing five casualties in the opening minute. Pinned down, the Australians went to ground and began returning fire, allowing all except one of the wounded to crawl to safety. Private Richard Parker, who had fallen directly in front of the bunker system, was unable to be recovered. Failing to respond to the shouts of his comrades, Parker was exposed to further hits, although was probably already dead. To support the beleaguered platoon, Healy subsequently ordered the support section from company headquarters to move forward to provide covering fire, while 3 Platoon moved up on the left flank. However, due to the dispersed patrolling plan adopted, the remaining companies were unable to provide any assistance.

Still at the bottom of the hill, 3 Platoon—under Second Lieutenant Clive Williams—had just shot and killed two Viet Cong moving along the creek line. Reaching the top of the hill to the left of company headquarters, Williams turned to the right towards the Viet Cong positions. Moving into an extended line on a 120 metres (130 yd) front the Australians had advanced just 50 metres (55 yd) before the left flank was engaged by a number of machine guns from another sector of the Viet Cong position. In danger of being outflanked, 3 Platoon continued to advance regardless, using fire and movement. Just 15 metres (16 yd) from the bunkers Private Peter Gillson, the machine-gunner in the forward section, was shot as he tried to move around the twisted roots of a tall tree. As he fell two Viet Cong rushed forward to take the M60 machine-gun; however, Gillson was still conscious and they were killed at point blank range before he collapsed. Williams radioed Healy of the increasing danger while his platoon sergeant—Sergeant Colin Fawcett—had crawled forward under heavy fire to Gillson, whose body was wedged in the buttress of a large tree. Unable to find a pulse, Fawcett attempted to extract Gillson, but was unable to do so due to heavy fire. Two other attempts to recover the body were also beaten back, and although unsuccessful, Fawcett was later awarded the Military Medal for his actions.

Taking heavy fire from both the front and flanks, Williams had little choice but to withdraw. With the Viet Cong moving rapidly to encircle them, and unable to move forward, the Australians had to fight using small arms fire and grenades to extract themselves back to company headquarters without further casualties. However, by this time the artillery was beginning to have an impact as A Company’s forward observer, Captain Bruce Murphy, a New Zealander, directed the fire. The Australians had unavoidably been placed in the worst possible position to their supporting artillery, with 105 Battery firing on a line directly towards them from their gun-line 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) on the other side of the Gang Toi plateau. Consequently, Murphy was unable to observe the fall of shot, and had to walk the rounds onto the target by sound. A slight miscalculation could have sent a round over the hill into the Australian positions, regardless, and despite persistent rifle and machine-gun fire, Murphy calmly directed the artillery throughout the battle. For his skill and bravery he was later awarded the Military Cross.

By 18:30, more than two hours since the fighting began, darkness was approaching. The battalion would be unable to concentrate against the Viet Cong position until the following day, and Healy subsequently made the decision to withdraw. With the artillery falling as close as possible, the weight of the indirect fires provided the Australians with a degree of protection and an opportunity to extricate themselves. Lieutenant Ian Guild’s 2 Platoon was subsequently moved into position to cover the withdrawal, and carrying their wounded the Australians successfully broke contact without suffering further losses. A Company initially moved to a landing zone 120 metres (130 yd) below the ridgeline which had been cleared to allow the casualties to be evacuated, yet there were no helicopters available. As a result, the Australians had to look after their casualties until the following morning, and they proceeded further north to a night harbour as the area was pounded by artillery, aerial bombing and helicopter gunships.

Healy assessed that his company had encountered a force of at least company-size. Later it became apparent that they had indeed contacted Company 238 which was tasked with protecting the U1 headquarters and to carry out operations in the Bien Hoa region.[31] Throughout the day Viet Cong reconnaissance parties, perhaps including those that had been contacted intermittently, had observed the approaching Australian force on a line leading directly to the U1 headquarters. During the fighting the Viet Cong company commander—Nguyen Van Bao—had split his force into two, allocating one platoon to fight the advancing Australians, and the other two to protect the headquarters. Following the Australian withdrawal, Van Bao had also withdrawn, pre-empting the ensuing barrage, yet the U1 base remained in communist hands.



Dorothy Engelhardt, Director, Unmanned Systems, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Ships), christens the Orca XLUUV Test Asset System during a ceremony April 28, 2022, in Huntington Beach, California. The Orca XLUUV Test Asset System will provide an opportunity to reduce risk and gain valuable knowledge of the operation, maintenance and vehicle performance of XLUUVs. Boeing photo.

Here Is Our First Look At The US Navy’s Orca XLUUV



Anzac Cove service poignant for the bugler

CAPTION: Musician Francis White sounds the Last Post during the Commonwealth memorial service in Gallipoli, Turkey. Story by Lieutenant Anthony Martin. Photo by Corporal David Cotton.

The haunting tune of a lone bugler sounding the Last Post during the dawn service on Anzac Day is emotive and powerful for all Australians.

This year at Anzac Cove in Turkey, it was especially poignant for the Australian Army Band bugler, who reflected on his family’s proud connection to the battlefield.

Army Musician Francis White, from Adelaide, was part of the Australian Defence Force contingent supporting the commemorative ceremonies at Gallipoli on April 25.

Musician White honoured his great-grandfather Captain Francis Michael White, who served as a lieutenant with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli in 1915.

Like many who fought at Gallipoli, Lieutenant White was struck down with illness during the campaign and was sent to a hospital ship for recovery. Also, like many other Australians who served at Gallipoli and returned, he brought back seedlings from Lone Pine and buried them at Port Wakefield in South Australia.

Musician White joined a compatriot from the New Zealand Army Band to sound the Last Post and Reveille at Anzac Cove. He performed at a similar moving Anzac Day ceremony at Sandakan, Malaysia, in 2019.

“It is an honour to serve in my role as an ambassador for Australia, commemorating the service and sacrifice of soldiers who are now out of living memory, yet whose actions were critical to our freedom and identity over one hundred years later. This is an incredible personal journey for me to better understand the experience of my ancestors,” Musician White said.

The family military history covers service in both world wars, with his grandfather serving in the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland. He then transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force as a Catalina pilot and navigator in WWII, and served in the Indian, Pacific, and European theatres.

“I honestly can’t think of a greater personal honour than this opportunity to commemorate at the campaign location of my great-grandfather,” Musician White said.

The Australia’s Federation Guard and Australian Army Band, working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, also conducted a commemorative service at the Australian Memorial at Lone Pine.

Special Ops forces to receive $1bn kit upgrade

By: Charbel Kadib

Australia’s Special Operations Command is set to receive new equipment and facilities as part of a major investment from the Commonwealth.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $1 billion would be invested in a major revamp of the Special Operations Command’s capability as part of the second phase of Project Greyfin.

The project, first announced in 2019, aims to bolster specialist equipment and enhance communications, surveillance and counter-terrorism capabilities.

This second stage involves updating Special Operations Command and control with a focus on “agility and strategic posture”.

The new $1 billion package includes the delivery of:

  • “highly specialised” communications and intelligence equipment;
  • new water and land vehicles;
  • tactical equipment and weapons; and
  • new facilities.

“Our special forces and commandos are the best in the world at what they do, and we’re committed to ensuring they’ve got the right kit to do their jobs,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

“Our special forces and commandos defend Australia and our interests 24 hours a day and Project Greyfin will keep them at the cutting edge.

“Not only do these upgrades help keep Australians safe, they mean more investment in the jobs and skills right here at home that make this equipment.

“Australia’s booming defence industry is playing a growing role in delivering the specialist capability our Special Operations Command needs and we will keep making the investments to grow local jobs and skills.”

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said Project Greyfin would strengthen Australia’s response to both domestic and foreign threats.

“Keeping Australians safe, protecting our interests and preserving our way of life is the top priority for the government,” Minister Dutton said.

“Project Greyfin is ensuring our Australian special forces have access to the best and latest weapons and equipment.

“Given the rapidly evolving strategic and threat environment facing Australia, special forces troops need the best gear. And it’s equally important that Defence is agile enough to get this equipment to the troops, when they need it.”

Australia’s Special Operations Command is made up of the Special Air Service Regiment, 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments, Special Operations Engineer Regiment and the Special Operations Logistic Squadron.

This latest investment comes just a day after the government announced over $2 billion would be invested in the acquisition of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM Block 2) capability for the Royal Australian Navy.

The ESSM Block 2 advanced surface-to-air missile – to be supplied by BAE Systems Australia, L3 Harris, and G H Varley – is designed to counter anti-ship missile threats.

The weapons leverage an advanced active radar missile seeker, capable of hitting targets at a range in excess of 50 kilometres.

The first tranche of the missiles has already arrived in Australia for initial integration and testing.

The ESSM Block 2 is expected to be deployed from the RAN’s Surface Combatant Force, which includes the Anzac Class frigates and Hobart Class destroyers.