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RAAF and USAF partner on strategic airlift training exercise

Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force C-17A Globemasters participate in a three-ship flight along the Queensland Eastern Coast during Exercise Global Dexterity (Source Dept of Defence)

Royal Australian Air Force and US Air Force C-17 Globemasters have participated in a joint strategic airlift training exercise off the coast of Queensland in support of greater interoperability. 

Exercise Global Dexterity has involved a major milestone for the Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force, with mixed-nation C-17 Globemaster III crews maintaining, loading and flying the aircraft.


The interfly exercise, currently underway, is operating out of No. 36 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley for two weeks this month.

Participating in “five-ship” air-to-air refuelling training with RAAF KC-10A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft, and airdrop formations, the three C-17s descended to an altitude of 100m along the Queensland coast.

Speaking to the growing interoperability and partnership between the Royal Australian Air Force and US Air Force, Colonel Geoff Lohmiller, Vice Commander of the USAF 15th Operations Group, said Australia and the US are the left and right hand of the Pacific Ocean.

COL Lohmiller explained, “Our teams are one in the same. There are unique complexities to face and learn from when working in a mixed team. This training and tactical-level integration of C-17 aircrew is how we remain effective and responsive into the future.”



US aircrew flying C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 535th AS will conduct bilateral training with their Australian counterparts through simulated mission scenarios involving air, land and airborne crews throughout Northern Australia.

Maintenance Airmen will focus their training on the C-17 Aircraft Repair and Maintenance Services Implement Agreement.

Flight Lieutenant Lukasz Wijacha, of No. 36 Squadron, said the exercise has demonstrated the RAAF and USAF teams’ ability to function as one squadron.

“There are unique complexities to face and learn from when working in a mixed team. Many USAF C-17s have never experienced refuelling with our KC-30A aircraft either, so it is invaluable practising this while they are Down Under,” FLTLT Wijacha said.

These comments were reinforced by US Air Force Colonel Halsey Burks, Commander of the 15th Operations Group, saying, “Global Dexterity offers a unique bilateral training that will allow the 15th Wing to further synchronize with our valued Australian allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“Honing in on C-17 interoperability provides a benchmark for future iterations of the exercise and paves the way for real-world mixed aircrew and maintenance support for airlift operations. Strengthening our partnership with the RAAF is a key element in further projecting combat airpower in the region and remaining strategically ready to go anywhere, anytime,” COL Burks added. 

As part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Australian Defence Force, the goal of Exercise Global Dexterity is to enhance interoperability between the two air forces C-17s aircrew and maintenance service members for future combined mobility operations.

This exercise follows Talisman Sabre 19, where the first joint air refueling between USAF F-22 Raptors and a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft happened in July.

It also follows RAAF maintenance airmen fixing two USAFC-17s in Australia in July, and USAF maintenance Airmen fixing a RAAF C-17 at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, in September as part of the C-17 ARMS-IA between the two countries.

This agreement allows airmen from each country to repair non-mission capable aircraft from either country in mission-critical situations.

RAAF and USAF partner on strategic airlift training exercise
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