Royal Australian Air Force and 18th Aggressor Squadron pilots continue enhancing interoperability in Exercise Diamond Shield 2017

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steven R. Doty
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Pilots from the U.S. Air Force 18th Aggressor Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and from Royal Australian Air Force 3 Squadron and the Air Warfare Centre Instructors Course, RAAF Base Williamtown, have already logged numerous hours of flight time during Exercise Diamond Shield 2017 in New South Wales, Australia.

The 18th Aggressor pilots are key components in providing a replicated threat for the students of the AWIC and specifically through the integration of their primary platform; the F-16 Fighting Falcon. For these already experienced RAAF F-18 Hornet pilots, just the visual difference and increased number of aircraft is enough to “change the game”.

“Flying against a different aircraft type takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to fall back on some of your fighter training basics,” said Royal Australian Air Force Flying Officer Justin Nash, 3 Squadron F-18A Hornet pilot. “When you’re not in your normal routine of fighting the same aircraft type, just seeing a different aircraft type and seeing the different things [the 18th Aggressors] can replicate as ‘Red Air’ has been really interesting and quite a challenge.”

The RAAF 3 Squadron has a dual-purpose role during Diamond Shield 2017: To provide a service for the 18th Aggressor Squadron by augmenting enemy ‘Red Air’ pilots, and supporting the AWIC under the tenants of Raise, Train, and Sustain; what the RAAF refers to as their normal operating ryhtmn.

The ‘Blue Air’ is primarily provided by the RAAF Operation Conversion Unit. The OCU hosts three, six-month courses of initial F-18 Hornet qualification, then initiates AWIC during every fourth, six-month period. Much like the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Weapons School for pilots, AWIC serves as the RAAF advanced weapons fighter curriculum, culminating each pilot’s arduous training schedule in this joint training exercise.

Exercise DS17 is set to run until March 31 and will incorporate the RAAF C-17A III Globemaster, C-130J Hercules, AP-3C Orion, BAE Hawk trainer and Eielson’s signature Aggressor F-16 Fighting Falcon’s.