Number 4 Squadron supports a diverse range of Australia Defence Force (ADF) capabilities and operations on a domestic and international front. To achieve this effectively, 4 Squadron consists of three flights, as well as maintenance / logistics sections and a small administrative team. The three flights are broken down into A Flight which comprises of aircrew responsible for operating the Pilatus PC9/A Forward Air Control (FAC) variant aircraft. B-Flight personnel employed as Combat Controllers integrate and control the elements of air and space power to enable precision strike and advanced military force operations. C-Flight members train students undertaking ADF Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) course as well as facilitating the continual development and assessment of current ADF JTAC qualified personnel.
4 Squadron supports ADF and multinational operations and exercises. Combat Controller Teams (CCTs) are regularly tasked to support operations throughout the world. Aside from the training ADF JTACs, the unit also directly supports No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) twice a year, 76 SQN through Close Air Support (CAS) during Initial Fighter Course and all ACG frontline fighter Squadron CAS training with the provision of CCT and FAC/A
Combat Controllers from B FLT 4 are currently deployed on a rotational basis in the Middle East.
4 Squadron regularly deploys aircraft and personnel in support of Air Force and Army operations, including:
Southern Frontier (US Marine Corps support)
During these exercises, PC9/A (F) aircraft fly FAC/A and CAS profiles, with CCT providing Terminal Control and battlefield airspace management. 4 SQN pilots utilise smoke grenades as weapons to represent high explosive ordnance used by fast jet aircraft. This enhances the training realism and complexity for Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC).
Smoke grenades are also used to assist pilots of fast jet aircraft visually acquire ground targets. Releasing smoke grenades in the vicinity of a target provides strike aircraft with an easily identifiable visual feature, assisting them to positively identify their target. This enhances their ability to employ weapons accurately and efficiently and is a key element of Forward Air Control.
These procedures provide training not only for the ground personnel and the strike aircraft’s crews, but also for the 4 Squadron aircrew practising in the CAS and FAC/A role.
Local 4 Squadron operations centred around RAAF Base Williamtown mainly focus on supporting CCTs and JTACs. Additional operations aim to train and enhance the skills, techniques and qualifications of the Pilots within 4 Squadron.
No. 4 Squadron AFC was formed at Point Cook in 1916, and went on to see active service on the Western Front. The squadron regularly engaged the Red Baron’s elite ‘Flying Circus’ and claimed the most kills (199) for any Australian Flying Corps (AFC) unit of the first World War, including listing 11 aces from their ranks. Following the armistice, 4 Squadron remained in occupied Germany until returning to Australia before being disbanded in 1919.
The unit was re-formed when Australia went to war again during WWII. In 1942 No. 4 Squadron deployed to New Guinea to support American and Australian ground forces. The Squadron operated in the army co-operation role, providing ground forces with artillery observation, reconnaissance and close air support. In February 1943, 4 Squadron flew what is regarded as the first recorded Forward Air Control (FAC) mission in the history of military aviation. 4 Squadron Wirraways would strafe the targets with tracer rounds to assist No. 30 Squadron Beaufighters in delivering their ordnance on the correct target.
The unit continued operations until 1945 when the squadron redeployed to support the Borneo campaign. Following the war the unit was again disbanded in 1948.
Forward Air Control in the RAAF continued to evolve through the formation of a dedicated FAC aircraft in 1969, and the FAC role was operated from 2 OCU, 77 SQN and 76 SQN throughout the next few decades. In 2002, FAC became a separate unit with the creation of Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU).
In recent times, the training demand for JTACs has significantly increased, leading to the merger of FACDU and ACG Special Tactics Project on 03 Jul 2009 to re-form No. 4 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown, where it continues to operate in three Flights. A FLT consists of aircrew that operate the 4 PC9/A (F) variants in the FAC/ CAS role. B FLT is made up of Combat Controller airmen and officers, who are drawn from Pilot, JBAC and ACO backgrounds, who provide air surface integration. C Flight consists of JTAC instructors and evaluators to facilitate the successful training of ADF JTACs.