High rewards for thinking critically about air power

By Flying Officer Clarice Hurren

What air power lessons from the pre-jet era are still appropriate today?

This was the question successfully answered by this year’s Chief of Air Force Essay Competition (CAFEC) winner Pilot Officer Michael Challis.

Announced at the 2018 Air Power Conference, his essay was shortlisted by a panel at the Air Power Development Centre (APDC) with CAF making the final selection. A prize pool of $2000 and a flight in the back seat of a fast jet was awarded to Pilot Officer Challis.

Encouraging future participation in the CAFEC, Wing Commander Rohan Gaskill, Deputy Director Education at APDC said entrants could select from the wide range of topics in the Air Force Master Studies List.

“Essay writing, like the CAFEC, plays an important part in developing critical thinking skills and the ability to present a well-researched and coherent argument.”

“The competition encourages all Australian citizens and foreign military exchange personnel serving with the ADF to contribute to the discussion on air power,” said Wing Commander Gaskill.

Commenting on his win, Pilot Officer Challis said he chose to enter because he wanted to gain a wider understanding of air power and what considerations are taken into account when the Air Force conducts operations.

“My essay was focused on the air power lessons learnt in the pre-jet era and how they are still relevant to today and into a fifth-generation air force.”

“The reason I conducted further study is for personal development - to branch out from my day-to-day role and gain as much experience as I can before returning to my training.”

“I wasn’t expecting to win, it was actually my first time entering into an essay competition so when I was told I won it was a huge surprise,” said Pilot Officer Challis.

When asked about the opportunity to fly in a fast jet, Pilot Officer Challis said he was extremely excited.

“It’s an experience that I have never had before and it will be good exposure to one of the possible streams as an Air Combat Officer (ACO) and I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun,” said Pilot Officer Challis.

Pilot Officer Challis subsequently undertook his flight in an F/A-18B Hornet at No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown on 2 May.

He is currently posted to No. 37 Squadron at RAAF Base Richmond, awaiting the start of his ACO course later this year.