A US Air Force C-17 flies with three other C-17s over the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, on July 23. (Nigel Pittaway)
ROCKHAMPTON, AUSTRALIA — Australian and US Air Force C-17A heavy airlifters have flown a tactical air drop sortie together during Exercise Talisman Saber 2013, marking the first time any two C-17 operators from two countries have operated together as a single mission.
The sortie was a tactical airdrop over the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) in Queensland during the biannual amphibious warfare exercise, involving two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and two US Air Force C-17s. “We understand this is the first C-17 interfly with air cargo drop that the United States has done with an ally,” said 1st Lt. Jessica Colby, a spokeswoman for US Pacific Air Forces.
The two US aircraft were operated by crews from the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and the 62nd Airlift Wing from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“What we essentially did was a four-ship air package, rapid planning, airdrop exercise into a tactical scenario,” said Wing Commander Paul Long, commanding officer of the RAAF’s No. 36 Squadron. “For us it validated our training in the tactical level, but at the strategic level that we can plug into the American system and an American tasking line in times of conflict or humanitarian aid and disaster relief.”
US Air Force and RAAF C-17s have worked together previously, most notably in Japan in 2011 when RAAF aircraft supported American aircraft in the wake of the devastating tsunami and subsequent melt-down of the Fukushima nuclear reactor, but Talisman Saber 2013 marked the first cooperation in tactical operations.
“All of our pilot courses, loadmaster courses and loadmaster airdrop courses use the same syllabus as the [US Air Force],” Long said. “It’s the same syllabus, the same language, with slightly different cultures and it was good to validate all the tactics, techniques and procedures to see that they all worked together. I would like to see this continue on a more regular basis.”
“The Australians took over a lot of the mission planning and an RAAF crew led the flight, which was enormously helpful,” said Maj. Wes Skenfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord air mission planner for Talisman Saber. “The success of the mission proves our interoperability.”