More than 2200 personnel from the Australian Defence Force and US armed forces recently conducted Exercise Koolendong 2022, a combined arms littoral combat scenario across northern Australia.
CAPTION: US Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Ground Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin load an MV-22 Osprey during an airfield seizure event at RAAF Base Darwin as part of Exercise Koolendong 2022. Story by Lieutenant Gordon Carr-Gregg. Photo by Corporal Cedar Barnes.
The three-week warfighting exercise, led by the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) and held at Yampi Sound Training Area and RAAF Base Curtin in Western Australia as well as Mount Bundey Training Area in the Northern Territory, simulated a joint response to a regional security crisis.
Australian Army Colonel Marcus Constable, Commander Headquarters Northern Command, said the annual exercise strengthened the Australia-US relationship and advanced and validated interoperability across warfighting functions.
“Koolendong demonstrated that the ADF and MRF-D can deploy combined tactical teams supported by joint capabilities across maritime and littoral environments, enabling force projection operations across significant distances to remote and austere environments,” Colonel Constable said.
“Participating force elements deployed over 1000km by land, sea and air to rehearse and confirm coalition command and control processes, coordination of strategic joint strike assets, logistics support and the sustainment of these deployed forces while training together.
“Our US alliance is the cornerstone of Australian security. Our relationship with the US only grows stronger the more we talk, work and train together.”
For the first time, Exercise Koolendong integrated one of the US Army’s largest watercraft, USAV General Brehon B. Somervell (LSV-3) from the 8th Theatre Sustainment Command, which transported vehicles, equipment and cargo from Darwin across to the Kimberly Coast.
In another first, Exercise Koolendong integrated Australian Army and US Marine Corps joint terminal attack controllers with a bomber task force consisting of US Air Force B-2 Spirit Stealth bombers and RAAF F-35A Lightning IIs flying together as part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation United States Force Posture Initiative.
The MRF-D’s commanding officer, Colonel Christopher Steele, said Koolendong was the culminating exercise of the MRF-D rotation this year and demonstrated the potency of the Australian-US alliance.
“In my mind we have to be ready to fight right now with our Australian allies and our joint partners, and Exercise Koolendong provided us the opportunity to practise just that,” Colonel Steele said.
“The Australia-US Alliance has never been more important as we look ahead to our regional strategic challenges.”
The MRF-D is part of the United States Force Posture Initiatives which demonstrates the strength of the Australia-US Alliance and deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.