Up to 28 F/A-18 Hornets from RAAF Bases Amberley and Williamtown participated in Exercise Lightning Focus 2018 alongside two United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress Bombers.
The B-52 Stratofortress Bombers, stationed at RAAF Base Darwin, took part in Lightning Focus under the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) initiative.
Electronics Warfare Officer from 96th Bomber Squadron, 2nd Lieutenant (2d Lt) Mikah Brant said the EAC was about integrating with the RAAF to reassure and support each other through training.
“The B-52s trained through simulated scenarios alongside RAAF F/A-18 Hornets, helping them gain currency and qualification requirements whilst bolstering our training as well,” 2d Lt Brant said.
“Exercises such as Lightning Focus show us how to better cooperate as allies – it’s important to know the span of things in the global environment as we’re here to support each other and give the best support available.”
The B-52 Stratofortress Bombers completed higher headquarters directed missions throughout Lightning Focus consisting of different training sorties.
“We were taking off early morning and flying into military airspace on the east Australian coast where we’d integrate with the RAAF, complete our scenario and then return to RAAF Base Darwin,” 2d Lt Brant said.
For B-52 Pilot, CAPT Kristen Nelson, Lightning Focus was the third time she had visited Australia.
“I was here a few years ago for this exercise and it was great to see some of the developments and differences between then and now,” CAPT Nelson said.
“I’ve flown in this exercise a couple of times now and this time we have again further developed our tactical skills through working with the RAAF and there have been some huge lessons learnt from all parties.
“It’s been an honour to be able to integrate with the RAAF and bring some of the tactical advantages to the players working together.”
XO 13SQN RAAF Base Darwin SQNLDR Craig Sedgman said supporting the B-52s was one of Air Force’s highest priorities.
“The liaison between Australia and the US is vital and over time our good relationship and understanding for one another has only improved through exercises like this.”
2d Lt Brant said the difference between operating out of RAAF Base Darwin and Anderson Air Force Base was minimal.
“Everyone at RAAF Base Darwin has been very accommodating which makes being here a very easy transition, and from a B-52 perspective it’s brilliant,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to be here with the B-52s. We’re very thankful for the opportunity to integrate with the RAAF, flying different training scenarios and supporting the country.”
Australia and the US commenced Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) in February 2017, adding an extra dimension to the US Force Posture Initiatives in Australia.
EAC builds on the broad range of combined air exercises and training activities already undertaken between the US and Australia.