US F-22 Raptors are training with Australian F-35A jets in Northern Australia as part of an initiative to enhance the interoperability between the armed forces of the two countries.
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Six US Air Force (USAF) F-22 fighter jets from the 15th Wing based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, arrived at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Tindal in the Northern Territory on August 18, one day before the commencement of the famous multi-national air combat exercise Pitch Black 2022.
While the training between the American F-22s and Australian F-35 occurred at the same time as the Pitch Black Exercise, it was a separate event as part of the United States Force Posture Initiative, according to the news release issued by RAAF.
Nevertheless, the Pitch Black exercise that began on August 19 and lasted until September 8 grabbed much media attention, leaving these separate drills between the fifth-generation fighters unnoticed.
Many participants of Pitch Black were also operating out of the RAAF Base Tindal.
The RAAF news release further stated that the F-22s were visiting Australia as part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) Initiative between the US and Australia, which includes rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types in Australia for joint training and exercises with the RAAF.
“The F-22 Raptors have arrived in the Northern Territory as part of the EAC Program,” said Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Darren Goldie, Air Commander Australia. “This program has been in place since 2017, which builds on a broad range of long-standing air exercises and training activities undertaken between Australia and the United States,” he added.
“It is the same program that recently saw B-1 Lancer aircraft visit RAAF Base Darwin in June during Exercise Diamond Storm, and also B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers visit RAAF Base Amberley recently in July, integrating into Exercises Koolendong and Arnhem Thunder,” AVM Goldie further said.
Deployment Of B-2 Spirit Bombers To Australia
In August, four USAF B-2 Spirit stealth bombers were parked in a straight line at the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) Amberley airbase in Queensland.
They belonged to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri and the first two arrived at Amberley on July 10, while the second batch of B-2s arrived on July 12.
20% of the B-2 Spirit fleet on deck at RAAF Amberley a couple days ago. pic.twitter.com/pmV5KSKl0i
— Tyler Rogoway (@Aviation_Intel) August 1, 2022
While not much is known about the Arnhem Thunder, during the Koolendong 2022 that concluded at the end of July, the B-2s supported the US Marines who were red-teaming against the Australian 13th Brigade in a combat scenario that required the American forces to take over the Curtin RAAF Base.
The Australian 13th Brigade Commander Brett Chaloner revealed that the US Marines ultimately prevailed, noting that they had a few B-2 bombers in support.
The B-2s also practiced engine-running refueling with Australian equipment and mid-air refueling with the Australian KC-30s.
“It is testament to how well our two Air Forces assimilate that these incredible aircraft can visit our bases and utilize our infrastructure and support services, so we can all train closely with one another,” said AVM Goldie.
America’s ‘Dynamic Force Employment’ Concept
In 2018, the then US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, outlined a new strategic approach for the US military in response to the changing strategic environment facing the US, which demanded a shift from the counter-insurgency and overseas contingency operations to a posture more suited for a conflict with near-peer adversaries like China and Russia.
As part of that, the 2018 US National Defense Strategy described the ‘Dynamic Force Employment concept, which called for introducing unpredictability to the US military posture and operations.
To achieve this, the Dynamic Force Employment concept will implement a ‘Global Operating Model,’ which would involve cooperating with allies and partners to challenge the enemy by maneuvering them into unfavorable positions, frustrating their efforts, precluding their options, and forcing them to confront conflict under adverse conditions.
At the same time, the Global Operating Model will also provide the US forces freedom of maneuver. It would also offer America’s decision-makers better military options during a conflict.
The US military posture must be “strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
The US Force Posture Initiatives and Enhanced Air Cooperation program align with this strategic approach. They give the US forces increased access and additional training opportunities at Australian bases.
The agreements also call for upgrades to RAAF bases Tindal and Darwin, among several other military facilities in northern Australia.
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