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14 WORLD NEWS
Army May 26, 2011
Remote control: Australian ground crews return a Heron to a hangar at Kandahar after another successful
mission. Inset, pilot Lt Cameron Dunne and payload operator Lt Geordie Keating work up to 12-hour shifts
operating the remotely piloted aircraft.
Photos by Sgt Bill Guthrie and Sgt Andrew Hetherington
By Sgt Andrew Hetherington
PERSONNEL from Heron Rotation
4 deployed to Kandahar Airfield in
Afghanistan broke three records dur-
The triservice detachment flew
a total of 475 hours, surpassing the
monthly flying-hour record of previ-
ous rotations by 82 hours.
CO Heron Rotation 4 Wg-Cmdr
Greg Wells said the two other records
were achieved by an individual within
the unit and by a team effort.
"One of our payload operators,
Flt-Sgt Sean McClure, surpassed the
record of 500 flight hours and we flew
a total of 22 hours for one mission,
three more hours than our previous
record," Wg-Cmdr Wells said.
"In the 22-hour mission we were
supporting Australian troops on the
ground and were asked to extend
our flight time to continue providing
assistance to them."
Heron Rotation 4 consists of 28
personnel from the Army, Navy and
Air Force and operates three Heron
airframes from Kandahar Airfield.
"We have two Army pilots, one
Navy imagery analyst and the remain-
der of the unit is made up of Air Force
Heron pilot Lt Cameron Dunne,
and payload operator Lt Geordie
Keating are part of the team and con-
tributed to the record-breaking month
Both lieutenants' usual jobs in
Australia have them flying Kiowa hel-
icopters from Holsworthy Barracks in
"Flying Heron gives me the oppor-
tunity to fly an aircraft operationally,
as Kiowas are not deployed overseas,"
Lt Dunne said.
"It's great to actually get to do a
job deployed, as I've spent so many
Lt Dunne said flying a remotely
piloted aircraft was a rewarding job,
particularly when he could assist sol-
diers on the ground.
"We do see IEDs being planted
and pass the information on to the
ground forces," he said.
"The feedback we get isn't instant,
but a couple of days later when we
read the reports, we see the critical
information we passed on allowed the
right person to be located or a mission
to be executed successfully."
At times flying Heron while sit-
ting in a shipping container can be an
almost surreal experience.
During the end of one mission Lt
Dunne's aircraft was airborne near
Kandahar airfield when the base came
under insurgent attack.
"I had the aircraft in a holding pat-
tern one night waiting to land and the
base rocket alarm went off," he said.
"I thought 'well this has happened
before' and continued flying, as we
are located in a safe work area.
"Later we went back through the
video and saw two insurgent rockets
fly underneath the aircraft.
"Fortunately the aircraft wasn't
in danger and the rockets didn't land
near us on the ground."
Lt Keating's role has him control-
ling the Heron cameras during flight.
"It's a completely different role
to what I'm used to in Australia," Lt
"Here I'm working in an intel-
ligence, surveillance and reconnais-
sance role and at home I fly Kiowas."
On a typical day Lt Keating works
a maximum 12-hour morning or after-
"For example, on mornings we get
in an hour and a half before take-off
and run through all of the pre-flight
checks on all of the cameras and sys-
tems," Lt Keating said.
"The aircraft takes off and flies out
to the target area and I begin using
my cameras for the tasks I've been
requested to do.
"We either look for suspicious
activity within a designated area or
direct support tasks to soldiers on the
ground, who in real-time have asked
for our help to scan an area for them."
Heron Rotation 4 was due to return
home this month.
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