MELBOURNE, Australia — American F-22 fighters are training in northern Australia alongside the host nation’s F-35A jets as part of an initiative meant to improve interoperability between their armed forces.
Six F-22s from 15th Wing based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, arrived at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory in mid-August, with training beginning soon after.
The high-profile multinational air combat exercise Pitch Black, which took place Aug. 19-Sept. 8, overshadowed the separate drills involving the fifth-generation fighters. Several participants of Pitch Black also operated out of Tindal.
Royal Australian Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie said in a news release that the F-22 and F-35 training was part of the United States Force Posture Initiatives.
The release also said the F-22s were visiting Australia under the Enhanced Air Cooperation program between both countries, with the U.S. Air Force saying those jets are supporting a “dynamic force employment” exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force.
This is the latest in a series of U.S. Air Force deployments to Australia, and the drills are to conclude in mid-September.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy described the dynamic force employment concept as the ability to put a major combat force into a fight while keeping options available to counter emerging threats. It also means the force should be “strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
The United States Force Posture Initiatives and Enhanced Air Cooperation program are among a suite of agreements that gives American forces increased access to and additional training opportunities at Australian bases. The agreements also call for upgrades to RAAF bases Tindal and Darwin, among several other military facilities in northern Australia.
Defense News attended the Pitch Black exercise but was unable to interact with the F-22 detachment.
However, Defense News did observe a takeoff cycle involving five F-22s and several F-35s while visiting Tindal. Each U.S. Air Force jet lined up on the runway with an Australian F-35 before each took off individually.
Tindal is home to the F-35As of 75 Squadron. However, an Australian military source who was not authorized to speak to the media told Defense News that the Australian aircrew involved in the exercise were mostly from the No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit based at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.