RAAF builds stronger Asian defence ties

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A contingent of six F/A-18F Super Hornets and 120 personnel of No 1 Squadron based at RAAF Amberley were deployed initially to Sam Ratulangi air base in Indonesia and then to Korat air base in Thailand to work with these Asian air forces on cooperative air combat exercises.

During September, the Super Hornet crews flew with their Indonesian and Thai air force aircrews on Exercises Elang AUSINDO and Thai Boomerang while squadron personnel engaged with their counterparts in developing interoperability between the air forces.

Exercise Elang AUSINDO, held at Sam Ratulangi Air Force base, Manado in North Sulawesi demonstrated the commitment between the Australian and Indonesian air force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Udara TNI-AU) to develop co-operative air combat procedures and to foster friendship and cultural ties.

Group Captain Stephen Chappell (RAAF) said exercises in South East Asia were essential in building and maintaining personal and professional networks as well as challenging the participants.

“Not only are we learning from our partners about how we can best operate with each other, we’re continuing to strengthen the positive relationship we have with our neighbours.
“These types of exercises are also important for the development of our people. It is an opportunity to challenge the team in an unfamiliar and often demanding environment. As the exercises progress we will throw more and more complex scenarios at the team to see how they operate when they are outside their comfort zone.”

It was not just in the cockpit where the RAAF strengthened its bonds with its neighbours. While in Indonesia, squadron personnel took time out to stop in at the Sam Ratalungi International Airport for a community open day where they were greeted by thousands of local people who had their photos taken with the crews and personnel in front of the Super Hornets.

From there, the detachment continued on to Thailand for Exercise Thai Boomerang between the Royal Thai Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force at the Korat Airbase in Thailand.

This second exercise also demonstrated bilateral fighter operations, which included dissimilar air combat training, with the aim of enhancing interoperability between the two air forces.

The visit to Thailand included a visit to the Ang Huai Yang high school where both the Thai and Australian personnel listened to performances by the children, played games, distributed snacks, opened a playground for the primary school and donated a cheque of 40, 000 baht, which was raised by the Thai Air Force and matched by the RAAF.

Returning home to RAAF Amberley, the Super Hornets conducted an impressive low-level formation flypast over the air base.

Photo: Sergeant Ryan Whelan distributes snacks during a visit to Ang Huai Yang School.