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RAAF Wedgetail joined US Raptors in Hawaii exercise

written by Hannah Dowling | June 3, 2021

An RAAF E-7A Wedgetail led US F-22A Raptors and F-16 Fighting Falcons in Hawaiian exercise Pacific Edge 21 in April, Defence has revealed.

RAAF Flying Officer Angus Ozimec, No. 2 Squadron surveillance control officer, said working with the Raptors had been “eye opening”.

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“It’s been an excellent opportunity to see how we can integrate with the fifth-generation platform and become stronger as a team – this has also provided valuable experience we can apply when working with our F-35As back in Australia,” he said.

The three-week, multi-faceted air-combat program saw more than 100 sorties performed, alongside Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron and active-duty 19th Fighter Squadron.

The E-7A, operated by No. 2 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown, provided airborne early warning support to the US aviators, as the exercise looked to test the interoperability and stealth abilities of the Wedgetail with the Hawaii National Guard’s F-22 Raptors.

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 442nd Training and Evaluation Squadron also joined the demonstration, in a ‘hostile’ adversarial role, in order to better practice real-world combat encounters utilising allied support.

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The Raptor pilots responded to sequences in order to protect high-value airborne assets from an observed threat, and other scenarios involving direct air-to-air engagements from offensive and defensive postures.

Daily sorties were also sustained by the delivery of in-air refuelling, provided by Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotankers from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron.

Detachment Commander Squadron Leader Derek Cox said the RAAF was proud to display the E-7A Wedgetail’s capabilities in complex joint training activities in deployed environments.

“Exercise Pacific Edge provided a key opportunity to integrate with allied capabilities to test, evaluate and fine-tune our tactics – focusing on F-22 and E-7 integration against advanced threats,” he said.

He noted that the exercise provided the opportunity to practise a wide range of combat encounters, with the E-7A Wedgetail playing a critical role in exercise mission scenarios.

“The E-7 demonstrated its ability to deliver that force multiplier effect for allied nations as it can share information with other coalition aircraft, providing the joint force with situational awareness to command, control and co-ordinate a joint air, sea and land battle in real time,” SQNLDR Cox said.

“I am incredibly proud of the performance of our personnel during the exercise. They have clearly demonstrated their ability to fully integrate with our partner nations – building on the strength of our cohesive and highly effective team environment.

“Operating with fifth-generation platforms in this context is a valuable experience and provides important learning outcomes that also translate to our operations with the F-35A back home.”

Meanwhile, Pacific Edge 21 project officer Captain Robert Pupilis said the exercise was distinguished by its narrow scope of integration, allowing aviators to enhance the most fundamental aspects of bilateral warfare.

“[In larger exercises] a lot of lessons learned can get overshadowed by the sheer size of the fight,” he said.

“During Pacific Edge, we were able to focus specifically on F-22 and E-7 integration to develop, fine-tune, and test our tactics against advanced threats to bring forward to future exercises.

“This exercise absolutely increased my confidence in our interoperability and integration tactics with the RAAF and the E-7.

“Not only with the platforms but in the warfighters and professionals involved. The Hawaiian Raptors hope to continue working with 2SQN in the future with our local exercises and larger events on the mainland.”

Modelled on a Boeing 737-700, the E-7A Wedgetail combines long-range surveillance radar, secondary radar, passive detection surveillance receivers and tactical/strategic voice and data communications systems.

This capability provides the ADF with the ability to survey, command, control and co-ordinate a joint air, sea and land battle in real time.

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