A SQUADRON of the world’s most advanced military aircraft have been based in Katherine in the Northern Territory’s Top End during the past month as part of US-Australia joint exercises.
It is the first stage of the Enhanced Air Cooperation operation organised by the allies.
The US Air Force’s premier strike jet fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has been conducting joint exercises with Tindal’s 75 Squadron’s F/A-18 Hornets.
The F-22 Raptors will be one of the main attractions at the Australian International Airshow being held at Avalon, outside Melbourne, from March 3-5.
The Joint Strike Fighter, the reason for a half billion dollar upgrade underway at Tindal, is making its debut at the airshow.
US Air Force 90th Fighter Squadron Commander Lieutenant Colonel David Skalicky said the Americans have enjoyed spending time in and around Katherine.
“I love Katherine, it is great, the weather has been incredible,” Col. Skalicky said.
“It was negative fifteen degrees celsius when we left Alaska so it is a bit of a change.
“Last Saturday most of the guys hiked the Katherine gorge, and they have been having a great time going into town,” he said.
“I got my haircut across from the ‘Woolies’, she did a fantastic job on my hair,” he said.
Although there are no immediate plans to establish a rotation of American pilots through Katherine, the foundation has been cemented for future exchanges.
“There are no plans right now to come back to Katherine,” Col. Skalicky said.
“But certainly in the long term, this initiative has set a precedent for future rotations, I can guarantee this won’t be the last.”
RAAF Wing Commander Andrew Tatnell said the Americans will be enjoying some well deserved rest over the next few days.
“It is really great for Katherine to have the Americans in town socialising, there is a real economic benefit,”
“We get the opportunity to mix and share our cultures, it is a great time and I find it really exciting,” he said.
Last week the United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptors started training with the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) F/A-18A Hornets for the first Enhanced Air Cooperation activity in Australia.
Enhanced Air Cooperation is part of the US Force Posture Initiatives and builds on a range of air exercises and training activities already undertaken by the US and Australia.
During their visit to Tindal, the F-22s and F/A-18A Hornets conducted defensive counter air missions and offensive counter air scenarios during the last two weeks of February.
The offensive counter air scenarios were held near the giant Delamere Weapons Range, Kilarney Station, Dry Springs, Kid Springs and Victoria River Downs.
The F-22s and F/A-18A Hornets will also conduct short missions to RAAF Base Townsville as part of their combined training activities.
It has been 75 years since the 90th Fighter Squadron and members of the 3rd Wing first integrated with the RAAF in the Northern Territory during World War II.