RAAF F-35A Lightnings will take part in their ﬁrst exercise.
Royal Australian Air F-35s based at RAAF Base Williamtown will take part in their ﬁrst exercise in a limited role in the upcoming Air Warfare Instructors Course, training personnel from Air Combat Group, Air Mobility Group and Search and Rescue Group to become the newest fifth generation-centric Combat Instructors.
Aero Australia talked to RAAF AIRCDRE Mike Kitcher, Commanding Ofﬁcer of the RAAF’s Air Combat Group at the Australian International Airshow held at Avalon airport this week. Asked if the F-35 would take part in upcoming exercises such as the AWIC course and also Talisman Sabre 2019 later in the year, AIRCDRE Kitcher stated:
“The F-35 is currently going through its validation and veriﬁcation process leading up to Initial Operating Capability which will be achieved by the end of 2020. “That will consist of 3 Squadron – our ﬁrst operational F-35A squadron – and also 2 Operational Conversion Unit conducting aircrew and technician training at Williamtown. By the end of 2020 we will have thirty F-35s based here in Australia.”
Part of reaching IOC scheduled toward the end of 2020, AIRCDRE Kitcher explained that roles in exercises will gather momentum. “The F-35 will take part in a limited role in the upcoming AWIC
course mixing with other RAAF aircraft.”
“Regarding Talisman Sabre, ideally we would like to mix with the Marines’ F-35B version of the Lightning but at this stage with six aircraft in Australia it will be in a very limited to cameo role.”
AIRCDRE Kitcher explained yesterday in a press conference hosted by Lockheed Martin Australia
that in the recent Red Flag 19-1 exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, in one sortie undertaken by Australian F/A-18 Hornets as part of the Blue force, a USAF F-35 pilot with only 150 hours since coming out of the worldwide training program located at Luke AFB, was able to warn a pilot in a F/A-18 with 3000 hours ﬂight time that there was a Red Air aggressor closing on his position. He then give instruction on how to proceed to to escape, and the F-35 nulliﬁed the Red Air target.
This account gives an accurate description of how the F-35’s sensor suite is a game changer in situational awareness in a conﬂicted airspace.
During Red Flag 19-1 AIRCDRE Kitcher witnessed ﬁrst hand ﬂying with 77 Squadron the abilities of the F-35 ﬁrst hand, He says: “For me it was very pleasing to witness the F-35 in a strike mission, to see an eight-ship of F-35s kick down the door against a fairly determined adversary, with support from some F-22s to hold the door open.
“The F-35s then went back to pick up the strike train which consisted of classic Hornets from 77
Squadron, Super Hornets from the US Navy, Typhoons from the Royal Air Force and supported by US Navy Growlers and USAF F-16 SEAD aircraft.
“The F-35s took that strike train deep in the training area through some signiﬁcant air defences,
everyone dropped their ordnance and everyone got out safely. While that was going on there were Growlers and F-16s suppressing enemy air defences and when the F-35s dropped their
ordnance they were actually providing SEAD as well. The whole strike train got out safely thanks to the F-35’s efforts.”
This year’s Avalon Airshow highlights the F-35, performing a full aerial demonstration each day.
By Jaryd Stock