The evolving fifth-generation capabilities of Air Force were on full display for people of all ages in the Jericho Precinct at the Australian International Airshow, which ran from February 26 to March 3 at Avalon Airport, Victoria.

In a range of tents on one side of the precinct, industry personnel, defence staff and academics demonstrated a range of new capabilities.

These included passive radar, the use of CubeSats (which are small enough to be held in one’s hand and can be launched into space quickly), and a world-first revolutionary telescope that can “see” space objects using neuromorphic sensing.

Flying Officer Kaitlin Flynn demonstrates a smartphone hologram device to a visitor of the Project Jericho Astro-STEM Zone during the 2019 Australian International Airshow.

“The neuromorphic sensor is an innovation from Western Sydney University that is part of Jericho. It is unique in that it can track objects in space during the day and can see what other sensors can’t," Plan Jericho Director  Group Captain Lyle Holt said.

“All these systems contribute to space situational awareness and will allow Air Force to identify potential threats to the space systems we rely on.”

On the other side of the precinct was the massive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) tent, housing more than 30 displays with which young people could interact.

“STEM is critical for us to achieve our goal of moving to a fifth-generation force.

“If we aren’t having people thinking clearly about science, technology, engineering and maths from an early age, our nation, and our Air Force, will not be able to make the fifth-generation edge work,” Group Captain Holt said.

The displays comprised robots, flight simulators, virtual reality and rocket experiments, and one display allowed children to learn design principles by building paper planes and watching how they performed when launched by a robot arm.

“STEM is critical for us to achieve our goal of moving to a fifth-generation force," Group Captain Holt said.

Meanwhile, the nearby Jasper Dome featured virtual flying by projecting a colourful landscape onto the ceiling and having people fine-tune and decorate fighter planes using iPads, and then launching them into the virtual world where the “Jasper” character lives.

“Jasper was such a hit with the kids. I saw a small boy about three years old run away from the display, moving and acting like Jasper. It was inspiring to see the eyes and faces of everyone who went into the Jasper Dome and interacted in that environment,” Group Captain Holt said.

Based on the enthusiasm for the Jericho Precinct, it is expected to feature in the next Australian International Airshow being held in 2021.

“People have seen and experienced what we’re working on and in the next two years we’ll have built some of the new initiatives we’re trialling, so it will be even bigger and better,” Group Captain Holt said.