Exercise Arnhem Thunder finished in the Top End

The Royal Australian Air Force has successfully completed Exercise Arnhem Thunder 21, a major training activity held at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal in the Northern Territory.

CAPTION: An Air Force EA-18G Growler, aircraft taxis past two F-35A Lightning II aircraft on its way to the runway, during exercise Arnhem Thunder held at RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Stewart Gould.

Between 17 May and 15 June, more than 500 personnel and 50 aircraft participated in Air Force’s largest domestic exercise for 2021.

Fighter jets conducted air-to-air combat scenarios and dropped live ordnance on the Delamere Air Weapons Range, and a contingency response squadron activated a forward operating base in austere conditions at the Mount Bundey Training Area.

Assets deployed to the exercise included the F-35A Lightning II, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, F/A-18A Hornet, Hawk 127, E-7A Wedgetail, KC-30A multi-role tanker transport, C-17A Globemaster, C-130J Hercules, C-27J Spartan, combat support personnel, and operational headquarters staff.

CAPTION: No. 6 Squadron EA-18G Growler aircraft taxies prior to a night operation during Exercise Arnhem Thunder, at RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory. Photo by leading Aircraftman Stewart Gould.

Exercise Director, Wing Commander Steven Bradley, said Arnhem Thunder provided vital force generation training.

“It is a prime example of Air Force’s ability to mobilise and integrate its air and ground-based capabilities in response to a range of security threats,” Wing Commander Bradley said.

“The exercise allowed Air Force’s key elements – Air Combat Group, Surveillance and Response Group, Air Mobility Group, and Combat Support Group to conduct important training.”

Arnhem Thunder saw the F-35As deploy for the very first time since achieving initial operating capability in 2020.

CAPTION: Two Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, take off for night time operations during Exercise Arnhem Thunder, held at RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory. Photo by leading Aircraftman Stewart Gould.

It was also the first time the F-35As, Super Hornets, Growlers deployed together as a high-end warfighting air combat package.

The F-35As will return to Darwin for the upcoming Exercise Rogue Ambush.

“Our sincerest thanks and gratitude to the residents of Darwin, Katherine and the surrounding rural areas for their ongoing support to important exercises such as Arnhem Thunder,” Wing Commander Bradley said.

“Training activities such as these are absolutely vital to the defence of Australia, and Air Force greatly appreciates the local community’s continued goodwill and understanding.”

The health and safety of Australian Defence Force personnel on exercise is paramount. All federal and NT government COVID safety measures were adhered to during the conduct of Arnhem Thunder, including social distancing and checking in.





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