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RAAF conducts long-range fire training exercise with US Marines

written by Staff reporter | August 20, 2021

Australian and US military personnel have tested their rapid insertion long-range fire capability as part of interoperability training exercises in the Northern Territory.

ADF troops from Air Force and Army, alongside the US Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D), have wrapped up Exercise Loobye — a rapid insertion long-range fire mission held in the Bradshaw Field Training Area, 350 kilometres south of Darwin.

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Deploying from four MV22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, approximately 100 United States Marine Corps (USMC) personnel were tasked with securing the Nackaroo Airfield ahead of the arrival of a Royal Australian Air Force Boeing C-17A Globemaster III.

The C-17A was carrying a USMC M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which was connect to the aircraft’s in-flight navigation system for the first time.

Upon arrival, the HIMARS was ready to deliver missile strikes on a simulated anti-ship missile battery target.

US Marines thwarted enemy threats with the support of the Australian Army, which provided ground-based air defence.

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Commander of the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, Colonel David Banning, lauded the success of the joint operation.

“This year marks 70 years since the signing of the ANZUS Treaty and 10 years since the announcement of the MRF-D,” COL Banning said.

“The MRF-D has grown in size and complexity since the first rotation of 200 US Marines through Darwin in 2012.”

COL Banning said the HIRAIN mission was a reflection of the evolving complexity of Exercise Loobye.

“Executing highly complex joint training scenarios such as Exercise Loobye continues to challenge our forces and better prepare us to rapidly respond in the region, if and when called upon to do so,” he said.

Australian Army Commander Headquarters Northern Command Colonel Marcus Constable added that the exercise further bolstered interoperability between the partner nations.

“Loobye means ‘together’ in the local Indigenous language,” COL Constable said.

“During this exercise, we worked together with the MRF-D to practise interoperability across different capabilities, including command and control, information sharing between our networks, joint airspace management and bilateral planning and mission execution.”

Exercise Loobye was the forerunner to Exercise Koolendong — a combined command construct operation in a fictitious contested area.

Also located at Bradshaw Field Training Area, which has been temporarily renamed as Bradshaw Island for the purpose of the exercise, personnel will be tasked with destroying the fictitious enemy and handing over security responsibility to local forces, before redeploying to Darwin Island.

The exercise will provide personnel with an opportunity to rehearse expeditionary bilateral, joint warfighting in a simulated archipelagic region laid over the 6,600-square-kilometre location.

The operation will be led by Commander of the combined task force (CTF) Brigadier Ash Collingburn, who described the training as the “most integrated, realistic, high-end warfighting activity” conducted in MRF-D’s 10-year history.

The joint forces have been planning for the exercise over the past 12 months, with the final rehearsal of concept conducted and deployment orders issued in late July.

“More than 2,500 troops and 500 vehicles will conduct a significant coalition land combat scenario in some of the most remote and austere Australian outback areas, with many more supporting the exercise from other locations,” COL Constable said.

Exercise Koolendong is expected to wrap up next month before MRF-D depart Australia, concluding the April to October rotation.

Written by Charbel Kadib.

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