Aircraft armament technicians known as “gunnies” from 1 Squadron loaded the F/A-18F Super Hornet with weapons during Exercise Crimson Dawn 23-2.
CAPTION: Armament technicians from 1 Squadron load a GBU-16 on to an F/A-18F Super Hornet at RAAF Base Tindal during Exercise Crimson Dawn 23-2. Story by Pilot Officer Shanea Zeegers. Photo by Sergeant David Gibbs.
Deployed from RAAF Base Amberley to RAAF Base Tindal, the technicians put their skills into practice fitting aircraft with GBU-16 laser-guided bombs.
Exercise Crimson Dawn has been a great opportunity for armament crews to gain trade experience.
Leading Aircraftman Patrick O’Connor, who has been in the Air Force since early 2022, deployed to Tindal for the very first time.
“Being able to put our skills into practice in a new environment, especially in a location like Tindal is a great opportunity,” Leading Aircraftman O’Connor said.
“This is the bread and butter of our job, looking after the maintenance, testing, rectifying of weapons.”
1 Squadron deployed their Training Flight to Tindal, including Boeing contactors such as Keith Schaumburg, who shared his experience with junior crew.
“It is super beneficial to newer tradesman, who haven’t had the experience. There aren’t many good quality opportunities like this, with both inert and high explosive weapons being dropped at Delamere Air Weapons Range,” Mr Schaumburg said.
“Exercise Crimson Dawn is a great learning curve, being able to take the time to provide hands-on training is a rewarding experience for both them and us.”
An inert GBU-16 uses the same laser-guided mechanisms as the high-explosive version to accurately conduct target strikes, however it has a blue concrete body instead of a green explosive one.
Utilising inert weapons provides the armament crews with realistic training without incurring the same safety risk as high-explosive weapons. The inert weapons provide a safe training stepping stone prior to working with the high-explosive variants.
During Exercise Crimson Dawn, 1 Squadron were also given the opportunity to deploy the first ever high-explosive GBU-31 V4 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an Australian F/A–18F Super Hornet.
This high explosive weapon provided an exceptional opportunity to develop the operational capability of the Air Force’s air combat assets and personnel.
Leading Aircraftman O’Connor said the scenarios presented during the training exercise were both challenging and realistic.
“It is a super exciting time to learn, with rarely getting a chance to practice with this weaponry except on exercises like Crimson Dawn,” Leading Aircraftman O’Connor said.