F-22A Raptors based at RAAF Base Tindal

A squadron of F-22A Raptor air superiority fighters began operations from RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory early February, marking the first time a squadron of US Air Force fighter aircraft have called Australia “home base”, for a while at least. Raptor pilots will engage in exercises and training missions with the RAAF’s No 75 Squadron as part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation Initiative between the United States and Australia.

The deployment of twelve F-22s to Australia along with about 200 US Air Force personnel is regarded as a significant indicator of the strength of the United States / Australia military alliance.

General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander said the deployment represents a key milestone in that relationship, as the two countries together build a 5th Generation fighter presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region

“Our steadfast relationship with Australia, deeply rooted in our common principles and shared values, stems from working together day in, day out across the full spectrum of operations, and will continue to prosper as we further integrate our efforts through this initiative,” General O’Shaughnessy said.

“Australia is a critical partner in the F-35 program, playing a key role in helping PACAF lead fifth generation aircraft integration into the region.

Through deployments like these, we can better leverage the increased survivability, lethality and situational awareness the F-22 and F-35, along with our fourth generation fighters, bring to this theater ensuring allied air superiority for years to come.”

Interoperability is the ‘name of the game’ in cooperative exercises such as this. Operating from RAAF Tindal, the F-22 and F/A-18 Hornet squadrons aim to provide credible forces, able to support a wide range of exercises and training activities.

From an operational development standpoint, Australian fighter pilots need this exposure, to how US Air Force pilots operate the F-22, utilising stealth and advanced onboard systems to achieve true 5th Generation airpower capability.

As 75 Squadron waits to transition to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, with only a handful of pilots undergoing training on the F-35 at present, being able to work with the F-22 squadron at this early stage of the JSF program is priceless.

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