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Aus-US co-operation on display during Exercise Lightning Focus

ex lightning focus
A RAAF KC-30A Multi-role Tanker Transport from RAAF Base Amberley provided refuelling operations for USAF B-1B Lancers in addition to RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growlers during Ex Lightning Focus '17 (Source Dept of Defence)

The Royal Australian Air Force and US Air Force have successfully completed Exercise Lightning Focus to demonstrate the interoperability and capability of the two air forces. 

The Royal Australian Air Force and US Air Force have successfully completed Exercise Lightning Focus to demonstrate the interoperability and capability of the two air forces. 

Aircraft from RAAF Base Amberley and RAAF Base Williamtown participated in the training exercise with up to 28 F/A-18 Hornets and other RAAF aircraft flying at any given time.

The aircraft from USAF’s Pacific Air Force are part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) initiative. EAC, along with the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, form the US Force Posture Initiatives in Australia, which are a key element of the broader alliance with the US. These initiatives are designed to increase the capability and interoperability of Australian and US forces.


Commander of Air Combat Group, Air Commodore Mike Kitcher, said conducting exercises with international counterparts and different platforms was important for aircrew training.

"Exercises such as Lightning Focus give our aircrew experience flying in a busy airspace with multiple fast jet aircraft," AIRCDRE Kitcher explained. 

Pacific Air Force Liaison Officer, Group Captain Stewart Dowrie, said integrated high-end training between Australia and the US remained important to building the combined military capability of both nations.

"Eight activities have already occurred under EAC in 2018, including: aero-medical evacuation training missions; fifth-generation fighter integration with our E-7 Wedgetail aircraft; combat mobility activities with the US Marine Corps MV-22; integrated aircraft maintenance on the C-130J aircraft; and expanding the air-to-air refuelling capabilities of our KC-30A," GPCAPT Dowrie said. 

EAC activities commenced in February 2017, adding an extra dimension to the initiatives in Australia.

The EAC initiative aims to strengthen bilateral collaboration and enhance interoperability through increased participation of US air elements, including fifth-generation strike fighters and strategic bombers in a range of training activities and exercises with the ADF.

"The EAC initiative has come a long way since its inception early last year, and has further enhanced our interoperability with the Pacific Air Force, and the wider USAF," GPCAPT Dowrie said.

While flying activities are the most traditional and visible demonstration of air co-operation, EAC is not just about aircraft. EAC activities have several lines of effort, including joint and combined warfighting effects, operational manoeuvre, integrating enabling capabilities, and strategic logistics.

EAC provides Australia and the US with the opportunity to extend combined technical skills and logistics training and will enhance RAAF's transition to a fifth-generation air force by introducing fifth-generation operations and requirements to RAAF Bases.

Stephen Kuper

Stephen Kuper

Steve has an extensive career across government, defence industry and advocacy, having previously worked for cabinet ministers at both Federal and State levels.

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