As Air Force transitions to a fifth-generation force, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) has welcomed Air Force’s newest test and evaluation capability with the arrival of three Pilatus PC-21 aircraft replacing the retired PC-9.

South Australia is the hub for Air Force’s test and evaluation capability, with historic ties, proximity to world-leading test ranges and co-location with Defence, Science and Technology (DST) Group.

ARDU Commanding Officer Wing Commander Matthew Noblet said air power had rapidly evolved within a highly integrated and complex battlespace.

"ARDU was established in 1943 to support aircraft research in areas like aerodynamics, systems, performance, and weapons clearance," Wing Commander Noblet said.

"To achieve that, ARDU has maintained a unique set of skills and experience that has been required to evolve with each generation of technology.

"Flight test aircrew are initially taught the skills at international test pilot schools required to support flight test in the modern battlespace.

"The three Pilatus PC-21 are a leap in technology that will better enable the raise, train and sustainment of the flight test capability. 

"The aircraft offer improved opportunity to enable flight test for Air Command."

Flight test is an activity where the purpose of the flight is to answer a question – the question may be on the effectiveness of a new capability, evaluating a new tactic, proving compliance against a safety standard or assisting in the development of a new system.

This information is then used by commanders to risk mitigate operational decisions. 

The Air Warfare Centre and ARDU have access to a wide range of external agencies and often broader test resources to support the operational Force Elements Groups.