Military Aviation


F-22 stealth fighters integrating with RAAF F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornets

As the Australian International Airshow is underway at Avalon airport, U.S. and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter squadron leaders discussed interoperability and tactical integration at RAAF Base Tindal Feb. 24 as their combined Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) training continues.

As explained by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs in his article U.S., RAAF fighter squadron leaders discuss EAC joint training, EAC is a combined training activity initiative under the Force Posture Agreement between the U.S. and Australian governments. This EAC rotation brought together the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) 90th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, and the Royal Australian Air Force’s 75 Squadron (SQN) F/A-18A/B Hornets from RAAF Base Tindal, two squadrons who share a long history of working side by side.

“We’re back together again operating in a really significant training exercise testing our integration and our interoperability,” said 75 SQN commander Mick Grant. “It’s no small effort to bring a squadron all the way down from Alaska and we’re really excited to have them operating here in our backyard.”

Grant said a huge function of the exercise activity is bringing together 4th and 5th generation aircraft which will be important for the RAAF’s future fighter capabilities as they prepare to receive F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Skalicky, 90th Fighter Squadron commander, and Wing Commander Andrew Tatnell, Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal Senior Australian Defence Force Officer, discuss the combined capabilities of the RAAF F/A-18A/B Hornet and U.S. F-22 Raptor at RAAF Base Tindal, Australia, Feb. 24, 2017. Twelve F-22 Raptors and approximately 200 U.S. Air Force Airmen are in Australia as part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation, an initiative under the Force Posture Agreement between the U.S. and Australia.

4th and 5th generation aircraft working together

“It’s critical for Australia because we will have F/A-18s and F-35s, 4th and 5th generation aircraft working together, and we need to be good at it,” Grant said. “We’re getting valuable training this week. We are taking the strengths of our 4th generation aircraft and combining them with the strengths of a 5th generation aircraft — we bundle those strengths into one package to deal with the threats in our current training scenarios.”

Lt. Col. David Skalicky, 90th FS commander, said that while the squadrons have been able to work together in larger capacities, this exercise activity allows a more in-depth training on a smaller scale.

“This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to integrate at the unit level which has provided us a unique opportunity to delve into the tactics and individual execution of each pilot and make us better as a team,” Skalicky said. “As we get better as a team, we’re better postured as a coalition to deal with the challenges of the future.”

An integrated and technical force

A unique capability that has further integrated the two squadrons is the exchange pilot program. Currently, RAAF pilot Flight Lieutenant William Grady is nearing the end of his three-year tenure as an exchange pilot with the 90th FS.

From left: Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant William Grady, 90th Fighter Squadron exchange pilot; Wing Commander Andrew Tatnell, RAAF Base Tindal Senior Australian Defence Force Officer; U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Skalicky, 90th FS commander; and Wing Commander Mick Grant, 75 Squadron commander pose for a photo in front of a RAAF 75 SQ F/A-18A/B Hornet and U.S. 90th FS F-22 Raptor at RAAF Base Tindal.

Grady said the opportunity to work with the 90th FS is a fantastic opportunity for him personally and professionally.

“The premise of the exchange [program] is to gain a solid understanding of 5th generation fighter flying, and bring back tactics and techniques so [the RAAF] can stand up the integrated and technical force that we’re desiring,” Grady explained.

Wing Commander Andrew Tatnell, the RAAF Base Tindal Senior Australian Defence Force Officer, said “it’s an absolute pleasure to have the 90th Fighter Squadron visiting RAAF Base Tindal as they work and train with the 75 Squadron.”

EAC exercise activities will continue in Northern Australia through the beginning of March.

A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A/B Hornet taxies past a U.S. Air Force 90th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor at RAAF Base Tindal, Australia, Feb. 24, 2017.

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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