Awarded to an individual, a group or organisation involved in any branch of aviation in the Australian Region or to Australian nationals abroad, who or which has made a meritorious contribution to any aviation activity, either by displaying technical excellence or by the development of a procedure or operational technique of an outstanding nature.
2019 awarded to: Royal Australian Air Force Aircraft Research and Development Unit
The Royal Australian Air Force’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit celebrated 75 years of continuous service on the 1st December 2018. Over these 75 years the Aircraft Research and Development Unit has pioneered flight test in the Australian Defence Force enabling aviation capability development for the Royal Australian Airforce and Australian Regular Army.
The Aircraft Research and Development Unit’s origins stem from the World War II need for the Royal Australian Air Force to keep pace with local aircraft production and research and development, through establishment of an interface between developing industry and operational service. To meet this need, the Number 1 Aircraft Performance Unit (renamed to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit in 1948) was formed on the 1st December 1943 at Laverton, Victoria. The unit was charged to undertake ‘type trials’ of aircraft from local and overseas production; flight trials of aircraft modifications and ancillary equipment; the evolution of tactical methods of employing aircraft and equipment; full scale flight testing as an auxiliary to, or in conjunction with, laboratory research; and co-operation with government departments, manufacturers and scientific research institutions.
Some of the unit’s early trials included performance testing of the Spitfire Mk VIII, Ventura take-off tests, Boomerang roll-rate testing, and installation of wing guns on the Wirraway. Additionally, testing was performed on captured Japanese 'Oscar' and 'Tony' fighter aircraft for performance characterization and counter-tactic development.
The end of World War II did not curtail Aircraft Research and Development Unit’s role, instead, seeing it expand in scope - technically and geographically, In 1947, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit supported American cosmic ray research, assisted the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation with rain-making trials and unmanned aerial vehicle development and in 1950 test flew the Pika, the first jet aircraft to be designed and built in Australia. The Pika was later developed into the Jindivik, the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy’s pilotless target drone, which operated successfully from 1952 to 1990.
In more recent times, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit has continued to be at the forefront of aviation development in the Royal Australian Air Force conducting complex weapon system trials such as the addition of the Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM) onto the F/A-18A/B aircraft; leading coalition air-to-air refuelling clearances between the Airbus KC-30A and a diverse range of receiver aircraft, as well as facilitating operational evaluations of new tactics.
Across its history, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit has continued to play a vital role in developing Australian aviation, both in the Defence and civilian sectors. The unit has flown every in-service Royal Australian Air Force and almost all Australian Army aircraft types past and present, ranging from the Mustang and Meteor, to the P-8A, Poseidon and Army’s Tiger, Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. The Unit’s dedicated team of Test Pilots, Flight Test Engineers, Flight Test Systems Specialists and Operational Evaluator Aircrew remain ready to plan, conduct and report on flight test, integrating the capabilities of the Royal Australian Airforce and providing subject matter expertise on everything from human factors to testing of tactical datalinks.
Today, as it has done over the past 75 years the Aircraft Research and Development Unit continues to fulfil its motto, to ‘Prove to Accomplish’ while evolving as part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Warfare Centre. Ensuring it plays its part in continuing the Royal Australian Air Force’s transition to a 5th Generation Air Force under Plan Jericho. The Royal Australian Air Force’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit is a worthy recipient of the Grand Master’s Australian Medal.
1981/82 H C Minnett Esq Dr D N Cooper Dr J P Wild CSIRO Interscan Team
1983 Not Awarded
1983/84 Brian Hamilton Heeps Esq
1985 Not Awarded
1985/86 Dr Henry Millicer
1986/87 Ingo Renner Esq
1987/88 Wing Commander Bernard I Fernandes
1989 - 1990 Not Awarded
1990/91 Don M Kendell Esq
1991/92 Laurence C Gruzman Esq
1993 Not Awarded
1993/94 Squadron Leader Kevin W Rushworth
1994/95 Captain Ernest A Girault
1995/96 Gary Lawson-Smith Esq
1996/97 Australian Mission Aviation Fellowship
1997/98 The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc.
1999 Not Awarded
1999/2000 John G Roncz & Graham Swannell
2000/01 Captain Trevor Jensen
2001/02 Bob Peake
2002/03 Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia
2004 - 2006 Not Awarded
2006/07 C-17 Transition Team & 36 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force
2007/08 Number 92 Wing, Royal Australian Air Force
2008/09 The School of Air Warfare, Royal Australian Air Force
2009/10 816 Squadron Royal Australian Navy
2010/11 Air Mobility Control Centre RAAF
2012 Not Awarded
2012/13 Emergency Management Queensland - Helicopter Rescue
2013/14 Royal Australian Air Force Ageing Aircraft Systems Audit Team
2014/15 Flight Training Adelaide
2016 Temora Aviation Museum
2017 Royal Australian Air Force Aerobatic Team - The Roulettes
2018 James Eric Thurstan
2019 RAAF Aircraft Research and Development Unit