Twelve United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptors have deployed to Tindal, Northern Territory for joint training exercises with the RAAF as part of the first Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) initiative.
The 12 jets are from the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and arrived at a wet RAAF Base Tindal on Friday.
“The F-22s will conduct integrated training activities with the Royal Australian Air Force’s 75 Squadron F/A-18A/B Hornets along with ground assets and personnel,” Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne said on Friday.
“The EAC will build on a range of air exercises and training activities already undertaken between Australia and the United States.”
It is the largest and longest rotation of ‘fifth-generation’ fighters to Australia to date.
“The rotation of the aircraft is designed to modernise and strengthen our already firm mil-to-mil relationship, facilitate interoperability, exercise combined capabilities and increase regional engagement,” a US Pacific Air Forces statement reads.
“While at RAAF Base Tindal, the F-22 detachment, alongside their RAAF counterparts, will provide credible forces able to support a wide range of exercises or training activities.”
The visiting USAF F-22 and RAAF F/A-18A/B Hornets would also deploy to Townsville for “short training visits”.
The F-22 is also due to be on public display at the Avalon Airshow, to be held from February 28 to March 5.
The EAC is part of the US-Australia Force Posture Initiative that was signed by the two nations in 2014 and came into effect the following year.
The agreement allowed US forces to be in Australia for activities such as “security operation exercises, joint and combined training exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as agreed with Australia”, the Department of Defence website states.
“The EAC aims to strengthen bilateral collaboration and interoperability with the United States,” Minister Payne said.
“While EAC will see an increase in training, it will be on a short-term rotational basis using Australian facilities.”
There have been five rotations of US Marine Corps personnel to Darwin since the Force Posture Initiative was signed. A sixth rotation is due to arrive in April, Payne said.