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USAF B-1B bombers link up with RAAF in Top End

The heavy bombers have engaged in interoperability exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Northern Territory.

The heavy bombers have engaged in interoperability exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Northern Territory.

Two US Air Force (USAF) B-1B Lancer bombers recently arrived in the Top End following a 6,000-kilometre journey from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.


The strategic bombers joined Royal Australian Air Force crews for emergency diversion familiarisation training at RAAF Base Darwin.

The B-1B aircraft linked up with P-8A Poseidon and KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft, rendezvousing with crew from Number 33 Squadron over the Timor Sea. 

Crews from the KC-30A aircraft leveraged their Advanced Refuelling Boom System to ‘plug in’ with the B-1B’s nose-mounted fuel receptacle at an altitude of 30,000 feet.

The air-to-air refuelling exercise, helping to maintain the B-1B bomber’s global reach capability.

The training forms part of a broader effort to bolster interop ability between Australian and US forces, building on the renewed AUSMIN 2021 commitment.


The exercises coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the first US Force Posture Initiatives (USFPI) in Australia, including the Marine Rotational Force Darwin (MRF-D) and Enhanced Air Cooperation, and 70 years of the ANZUS Treaty.

Air Commodore Stephen Chappell, Director General Air and Space Operations Centre, said crews rehearsed multiple combat mission profiles.

“This mission provided RAAF and USAF aviators with an important opportunity to demonstrate their professional mastery, and exercise their interoperability in challenging and realistic conditions,” AIRCDRE Chappell said.

“It also gave personnel assigned to RAAF and PACAF Air Operations Centres (AOCs) an opportunity to enhance our interoperability to co-ordinate, plan, and oversee the execution of these missions from headquarters over 8,000 kilometres apart.”

The B-1B Lancer — nicknamed ‘the Bone’ —is a long-range bomber, capable of carrying a conventional payload of up to 34 tonnes of guided and unguided ordnance.

RAAF personnel trained with USAF B-1B crews during the 2020 Regional Presence Deployment to Guam, and as part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation program in Australia since 2017.

“While we have conducted similar long-range training activities together in the past, this activity differed in the multiple interoperable mission sets being rehearsed,” AIRCDRE Chappell added.

“The allied crews executed important training and air-air refuelling mission sets over several hours and many thousands of square kilometres.”

 [Related: Defence hosts Indian Navy in Top End]

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

USAF B-1B bombers link up with RAAF in Top End
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