U.S. Air Force bomber, fighter squadrons support Australian Air Force training

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards | Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs | June 4, 2019

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE DARWIN, Australia —

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE DARWIN, Australia – The 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS), forward deployed from Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, and the California Air National Guard’s 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron out of Fresno, Calif., provided training support to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during exercise Diamond Storm May 6 to 26, 2019.

Exercise Diamond Storm is a continuation of exercises Diamond Shield and Diamond Seas, with the three exercises designed to qualify RAAF pilots at the Australian Air Warfare Instructor Course (AWIC) and promote training under the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC).

EAC is part of the U.S.-Australian Force Posture Initiatives to increase integration between the U.S. Department of Defense’s air elements and the Australian Defense Force, improving each country’s ability to operate together. EAC initiatives focus on activities in Australia’s north but could include activities throughout Australia and around the region.

“Exercise Diamond Storm is all about partnership and building relationships,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Burrell, 23rd EBS commander. “It’s about the interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces, so we can learn to train together, work together and fight together.”

The 23rd EBS deployed B-52 Stratofortesses to simulate targeted bomb strikes for the exercise.

“We get to be the primary strike platform along with the Australian F-18s and Growlers,” said Burrell. “We’ve learned a lot from the Australians while being here and as a part of this strike team. This type of training is key to our partnership, and we want to build upon that.”

With the 23rd EBS providing air-to-ground support, the 194th EFS and their F-15C Eagles provided air-to-air support via offensive counter-air training.

“We have about 40 to 50 aircraft on the blue side [main force] and a really large number of red air [opposition] replicating a very advanced threat, which is great training for us,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Ridlon, 194th EFS commander. “When you are red air, you are flying as though you’re an enemy airplane, and we change our tactics to be similar to what our enemy would use. The training itself has been on both sides just because you are seeing different capabilities, of different aircraft.”

These training opportunities allowed the 23rd EBS and 194th EFS to team up with a dozen RAAF units to coordinate joint mission planning together.

“Every blue mission we plan, we are conducting combined mission planning with our Australian allies,” said Ridlon. “We get to talk in a classified environment and share our tactics and capabilities with each other. That has been a great part to helping us build a relationship with them.”

At the end of the exercise, the RAAF graduated 28 officers from the AWIC, a course designed to strengthen the ability of the Australian Defence Force.

“The candidates of this course have been exposed to a very complex environment, and we try to push them to their absolute limit,” said RAAF Group Capt. Matthew McCormack, Diamond Storm exercise director. “Once these graduates get back into their operating units, they basically provide all that information and knowledge they got from the course back into those units. Everyone gains from this.”

Through Diamond Storm, U.S. and Australian Airmen continue to bolster their relationship, strive to increase readiness and enhance future integration to strengthen security cooperation in the region.