A Royal Australian Air Force maintainer monitors a generator connection to an F/A -18 Hornets July 15, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RED FLAG-Alaska 11-2 presented a steady stream of missions for RAAF maintainers to gain experience on the F/A-18 Hornet and learn how other countries perform aircraft maintenance and keep their fighter jets mission capable during the two-week exercise. RF-A participants receive an opportunity to learn from one another and improve the overall performance of people and equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
A Royal Australian Air Force maintainer connects a generator to an F/A-18 Hornet July 15, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RAAF maintainers ensured seven of the Australian fighter jets were serviceable and ready to participate in daily missions during RED FLAG-Alaska 11-2. When F/A-18 are on the ground, maintainers check and recheck the fighter jets critical components to ensure they are ready to fly in the next mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
A Royal Australian Air Force maintainer checks aircraft diagnostics on an F/A-18 Hornet July 15, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Maintainers travel with the F/A-18 Hornet to ensure they meet standards in reliability and serviceability, especially during RED FLAG-Alaska. RF-A participants also utilize exercises as an opportunity to have less -experienced Airmen get valuable on-the-job training. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
A Royal Australian Air Force ammunitions Airman attaches a fin to a training munition July 15, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RED FLAG-Alaska participants fly against a variety of simulated threats in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex's three impact areas. The availability of a military training range with several live munitions targets helps pilots experience scenarios that are possible in a real combat environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
by Airman 1st Class Yash Rojas
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/27/2011 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The Royal Australian Air Force and a small contingent of the Australian Army returned to Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for RED FLAG-Alaska 11-2 to participate in upgrade training and interact with U.S. and allied forces.
Branches of the Australian Defence Force have participated in RF-A before and have become familiar with U.S. training procedures and tactics. Pilots from the RAAF and other units utilized this year's exercise as an opportunity to sharpen their mission readiness on the ground and in the air.
"We treat these exercises as reality and it's about as real as it can get without having missiles come back your way," said Squadron Leader Steven Bradley, Royal Australian Air Force 3 Squadron B flight commander.
According to Squadron Leader Bradley, the RAAF is quite familiar with working with the U.S. Because RAAF procedures are very similar to USAF procedures, integration is fairly seamless.
"If we go to a conflict or an area of operations and the U.S. is there then these lessons that we've learned and developed together we could put into play," said the squadron leader. "So anytime we do the job for real, these lessons can be applied."
The opportunity to participate comes with responsibilities including keeping the aircraft in the air and in the fight. The RAAF brought seven FA-18 Hornet fighter jets to engage in daily missions during RF-A 11-2.
"We always try to achieve what the aircrew wants concerning serviceability and it's somewhat a pat on the back if we get all the jets in the air," said RAAF Sgt. Justin Kelly, 3 Squadron avionic technician. "The exercise will go smooth for us in regards to maintenance, but there are always obstacles along the way we need to be ready for."
Cooperating with other nations has benefits in preparing for coordination in a joint environment, especially for pilots. However, challenges on the ground also presented RAAF maintainers an opportunity to learn from several of the other RF-A participants.
The Australians forged new relationships while reinforcing others, such as with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, who they often coordinate with as a result of their geographic proximity.
"We see how other countries operate and get some ideas from them on how to learn from our mistakes," said Sergeant Kelly.
The nations participating in RF-A 11-2 have had a chance to test the capabilities of their personnel and equipment. More importantly, the training exercise scenarios have been tailored to the participants and their specific objectives, making it possible for everyone to satisfy their unique training goals while building and maintaining partnerships in the global community.