NT challenges newest Super Hornet aircrew

Exercise Crimson Dawn brought 82 Wing Training Flight to RAAF Base Tindal, using one of the world’s best airspaces in the final qualification activity for F/A-18F Super Hornet aircrew.

CAPTION: 82 Wing Training Flight instructor Flight Lieutenant Scott conducts pre-flight checks in an F/A-18F Super Hornet prior to departing from RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory, for Exercise Crimson Dawn. Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Campbell. Photos by Sergeant Pete Gammie.

The exercise marked the end of an eight-month operational conversion course on the F/A-18F for pilots and weapons system officers, who conducted complex mission scenarios operating with precision-guided weapons.

Beginning on January 30, trainees spent three weeks applying their skills in notional conflict scenarios at Tindal, Delamere Air Weapons Range and the surrounding airspace.

Pilot Officer Niall was one of the trainees; a weapons system officer whose role is to cross-check and split tasks with the pilot in order to operate the F/A-18F as efficiently and effectively as possible.

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CAPTION: 82 Wing Training Flight instructor Flight Lieutenant Scott (front seat) and student Pilot Officer Niall conduct pre-flight checks on the GBU10, 2000lb laser-guided weapon on their F/A-18F Super Hornet before departing RAAF Base Tindal.

“Deploying to a different airfield, flying in new airspace and learning new procedures can seem daunting at first, but once you are more comfortable, it is incredible seeing Tindal and Delamere from above,” Pilot Officer Niall said.

“The highlight for me was our first crew solo where there are two trainees in the F/A-18F.

“Jumping in, working as a team to fight our way into the enemy’s territory, dropping a bomb and fighting our way out was pretty exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time.”

Up to 100 people participated in Exercise Crimson Dawn, including Boeing Defence Australia personnel, who form a large component of 82 Wing Training Flight.

For the maintenance staff, armament technicians and logistics and administrative personnel, the exercise gave them the opportunity to train away from home base.

Flight Lieutenant Scott, one of the instructors on Exercise Crimson Dawn, said it was an intense period for the trainees but the activity developed their skills in a new, deployed environment.

“The airspace around Tindal is world class,” Flight Lieutenant Scott said.

“The storms in the wet season present challenges but it is part of our ability to deploy in all weather conditions, day and night.

“Teamwork is super critical. The trainees conducted notional scenarios against an air-to-air threat and then fly to Delamere Air Weapons Range to deploy their live weapons.”

Pilot Officer Niall said Exercise Crimson Dawn in the Top End provided memories he’ll never forget.

“Training in a new, massive airspace gave us the confidence to know we can take the jets somewhere different and still accomplish the mission to the same level,” Pilot Officer Niall said.

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CAPTION: A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from RAAF Base Tindal during Exercise Crimson Dawn 2023.


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