Air Traffic Control

Air Traffic Control - Joint Battlefield Air Space Control Officers

Air Control officersAir Force Joint Battlefield Air Space Control Officers (JBACs) provide air traffic services for all aircraft in the airspace surrounding RAAF air bases.

JBACs hold the same qualifications as civilian air traffic controllers, and are also trained to provide safe, efficient and flexible airspace control in contested environments, such as the Middle East Region, and in support of humanitarian and disaster relief operations.



Providing safe air traffic control

Aircraft separation is one of the most important functions in providing safe air traffic services in controlled airspace. JBACs provide air traffic services for the RAAF and apply the separation standards detailed in the (civil-military) Manual of Air Traffic Services.

The separation standards include surveillance-based (radar) separation as well as vertical separation and wake turbulence separation, supplemented with runway and visual separation when aircraft are in close proximity to the air bases.

Air Force provides air traffic control under a robust safety system, using layers to reduce the risks:

  • Strategic deconfliction, by designing flight paths that minimise conflictions between arriving and departing aircraft;
  • Traffic Management Planning, by regulating the flight profiles of arrivals to improve the traffic flow; and
  • Tactical deconfliction, by changing an aircraft’s speed, altitude or direction, including requiring aircraft to proceed at specific times to preserve separation.

When controlling civil aircraft, Air Force applies the same air traffic control standards and recommended practices as those of Airservices Australia, as determined by the national aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The most significant single component of Australia’s air traffic management network is the automation system used by both the civil and military workforces to control the flow of air traffic around Australia. Commonality between Air Force and Airservices will be further enhanced under a joint project called OneSKY AUSTRALIA that will acquire and sustain a common, harmonised Civil-Military Air Traffic Management and Control system.


Air Force air traffic services are regulated by a comprehensive compliance regime which is verified through certified audits and evaluations.

Regulatory oversight and safety management is achieved by the Directorate General Technical Airworthiness, the Defence Airworthiness Coordination and Policy Agency and the Directorate of Defence Aviation and Air Force Safety. Respectively, these agencies ensure technical airworthiness, operational airworthiness and implementation of the Defence Aviation Safety Management System.

Wherever practicable, Air Force’s regulation process accords with that specified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). CASA is invited to attend operational evaluations.

Additionally, internal Air Force evaluations are conducted at least annually at every base to measure safety and verify that controllers can meet the required standards.


The Air Force’s School of Air Traffic Control provides the initial training for all JBACs and establishes the fundamental skills and attitudes required for the delivery of safe and expeditious air traffic services.  Students are trained with the National Aviation Training Package (AVI08/14) and receive the same Diploma of Aviation that is awarded to their civil counterparts.

Sharing airspace with military and civil aircraft

JBACs provide air traffic services for civilian aircraft transiting military controlled airspace surrounding all air bases, as well as controlling all aircraft at joint-user (shared civil-military) bases at Darwin and Townsville, and the military priority air base at RAAF Base Williamtown.

Air traffic control in military airspace is particularly complex because of the differences between military and civil aircraft performance and their purpose for flying. Military air traffic control is more dynamic and variable than civilian air traffic. However, this does not necessarily mean the airspace is less safe.

Civil passenger aircraft are often less manoeuvrable than military aircraft and aim to travel from one location to another as efficiently as possible, independent of other aircraft.

Military aircraft conduct high intensity training to deliver military capabilities required by Government. This requires relatively large volumes of airspace to train for combat scenarios and to undertake other complex training. Military flying training often involves multiple aircraft training for complex scenarios, and often depart and arrive in ‘waves’ making the airspace particularly crowded for brief periods.

Balancing the needs of military aircraft with commercial flights and general aviation traffic is an important role for JBACs. Traffic priorities are allocated according to the Australian Aeronautical Information Publication supplemented for military restricted airspace by Flight Information Publications. In military airspace, civilian aircraft may be instructed to ‘hold’ to ensure separation standards are maintained for all aircraft.

Military Air Traffic Control safely handles more than 200,000 civilian aircraft movements through military controlled airspace each year.