The interoperability skills of the RAAF and the US Air Force have been put to the test as part of a joint military exercise.
Aviators from the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 37 Squadron, flying C-130J Hercules, have teamed up with personnel from the US Air Force’s (USAF) 353rd Special Operations Group (SOG), flying MC-130J Commando II aircraft, as part of Exercise Teak Action.
Held at RAAF Base Richmond, the annual bilateral exercise involved airborne operations to airfields across regional NSW, with pilots conducting day and night-time flying over the Hawkesbury-Nepean area, the Blue Mountains, and across central NSW.
No. 3 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, No. 1 Security Forces Squadron, and approximately 100 personnel from the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa also took part in the activities, which included transporting people and cargo under challenging circumstances.
Commanding Officer No. 37 Squadron Wing Commander Anthony Kay thanked US counterparts for their participation, particularly in light of COVID-19 quarantine requirements.
“Their willingness to complete the quarantine as a condition of entry highlights the value they place on training with us, and in particular the importance of the relationship between Australian and US forces,” WGCDR Kay said.
“Both parties learnt an immense amount and achieved a lot in a surprisingly short time, ultimately planning and integrating together as smoothly as two Australian units normally would.
“Despite the challenges that COVID-19 provided, I’m confident both teams are looking forward to the next iteration, and we’re really grateful for the time they took to come and work with us.”
The exercise enabled No. 37 Squadron to test its newly established combat system operator (CSO) workforce, supported by experienced CSOs with the 353rd SOG.
“The 353rd SOG regularly employ capabilities that we have started to develop,” WGCDR Kay continued.
“It has been great for our team to see how our American partners conduct some of these missions, and rewarding for our personnel to see how far and how fast we have progressed.”
The 353rd SOG Mission Commander Major Walter Mitchell lauded the efforts of exercise participants.
“The operations were some of the most valuable training repetitions that both the 353rd SOG and our Australian counterparts have been able to accomplish since the onset of COVID-19,” MAJ Mitchell said.
“All parties involved were able to effectively integrate and execute while still mitigating the COVID-19 risk.
“This training has allowed for the highest quality of interoperability to continue in the future.”
Squadron Leader Nicholas Bourke, a C-130J pilot at No. 37 Squadron, said the US’ participation has helped enhance RAAF capability.
“The 353rd SOG is an active and experienced unit in our region,” SQNLDR Bourke said.
“As we share C-130J capability across the Indo-Pacific, we need to maintain high levels of interoperability to respond effectively and collectively to security challenges.
“The opportunity to enhance interoperability and overcome the challenges of working together at the tactical level is really important.”
No. 37 Squadron and 353rd SOG will now engage in the Northern Territory as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021