THE United States Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was a familiar sight in Top End skies as Australian and United States aircraft participated in Exercise Diamond Storm 2019.
The skies over the “Top End” were home to a number of different Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft throughout May for the Air Warfare Instructor Course (AWIC) at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal.
Operated by the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (23EBS) from Anderson Air Force Base Guam, the B-52 was in Darwin to participate in combined training under the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) program.
The EAC program is designed to develop advanced joint warfighting capabilities, Fifth Generation integration and also provides an opportunity for personnel to extend technical skills and refine logistics processes in the joint environment.
With a wingspan of 56m, the USAF B-52 Stratofortress bomber is an imposing sight to behold.
Assistant Director of Operations from 23EBS Major Bryson Ayers said the B-52 was in Darwin to integrate with the RAAF through the provision of close air support for specific Exercise Diamond Storm scenarios.
“There are multiple levels why it is important for USAF to support exercises like Diamond Storm, the major one being interoperability between the United States and Australia,” Maj Ayers said.
“We train together because it gives us a better understanding of the people we are likely to work with in the future.
“It’s sometimes the small things that build the strongest relationships, we don’t just fly together - we eat together and attend briefs together.
“We are learning about how life is different in the two countries and yet essentially the same. It has been an enriching couple of weeks for the crew on the ground here,” he said.
Combined training of this type is integral to ensuring Air Force is ready to provide a rapid response to a wide range of challenges that may arise in our region, including humanitarian crisis and disaster relief, as well as promoting security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Wing Commander (WGCDR) Steven Parsons, Commanding Officer No. 13 Squadron in Darwin, said B-52 deployments to Darwin had been occurring regularly since 2017.
“EAC activities involve regular visits by the B-52s to Australian shores to participate in combined air exercises and training opportunities,” WGCDR Parsons said.
“The B-52s will conduct training in military airspace away from Darwin and there will be some early morning flying, as well as weekend flying during this training period.
“The ongoing training initiatives reinforce the enduring partnership between our two countries and enhance our ability to work together.
“This is a unique aircraft and these activities not only enhance our ability to work together in the air, but more importantly gives our personnel on base here the skills and confidence for a range of logistic and operational support requirements for this aircraft.
“Both the B-52 and F-15C fighter aircraft will fly out of Darwin during the exercise,” he said.
Two USAF B-52 Stratofortresses deployed to Australia from the 23EBS at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, and USAF F-15 from the 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from the 144th Fighter Wing, Fresno, California.
Exercise Diamond Storm is the culminating exercise of AWIC conducted from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal to practice Offensive Counter Air scenarios from 26 Apr to 29 May 2019.