Exercise Kakadu from the air

No. 10 Squadron aircrew on board an AP-3C Orion aircraft

Up to 21 aircraft have called the Northern Territory home this month to participate in the Royal Australian Navy’s largest international engagement exercise in Australian waters.

Held biennially, Exercise Kakadu is an Australian-led multi-lateral, maritime exercise involving Australian and 26 participating nations' Defence Forces.

Part of the exercise contingent was an air component consisting of aircraft from the RAAF, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, France and the United States.

Separated into six key phases, the Force Integration Training (FIT) Phase focused on integrating the Task Groups through seamanship, communications and warfare activities.

Task Unit Headquarters (TUHQ) Commander of the Air Component, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Steve Parsons, said that training with maritime assets is essential.

“Exercise Kakadu enables us to extract a high degree of training value due to close interaction with the Royal Australian Navy, South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific,” he said.

“The TUHQ is combined with both Navy and Air Force working as one team where we can plan, conduct the mission and debrief together.” WGCDR Parsons said.

The RAAF air component included an AP-3C Orion from No. 10 Squadron (10SQN) and Hawk 127 aircraft from No. 79 Squadron (79SQN).

10SQN Detachment Commander (DETCDR), Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Todd Desroches said the Orion crew have enjoyed their last Exercise Kakadu ever.

“It’s been a great experience for the team, working with the other countries and learning more about how they conduct procedures,” FLTLT Desroches said.

“As one of our last major exercises before we retire, it’s been great to play such a large role, working with the ships and the other aircraft involved,” FLTLT Desroches said.

“Looking into the future, it’ll be great to hear about the P-8A Poseidon and its role in the exercise in 2020,” he said.

Operating in close proximity to the ships, Hawks from 79SQN conducted low-level strike missions, working alongside Lear Jets from Air Affairs and Raytheon.

The low-level strike missions consisted of simulated attacks from ships whilst flying at up to 900km/hr as low as 150 feet.

79SQN DETCDR, Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Robert Graham, said that the real standout has been the working relationship between the Squadron and maintainers.

“We have a team of 10 RAAF members and 20 civilian maintainers here in support of Exercise Kakadu and they have been a crucial part of our operational success,” SQNLDR Graham said.

“Our maintainers from British Aerospace have been working long, hard hours to support us and we’re very grateful to have their support,” he said.

Exercise Kakadu concludes on 16 September and will be conducted again in 2020.