The US Air Force has released new mid-air photographs showing its B-2 Spirit bombers flying alongside RAAF F-35s.
The aircraft are operating over Base Curtin in WA as part of Koolendong 22, a combined US-Australian training exercise involving 2,200 military personnel.
It’s likely the dramatic shots — taken by the US Air Force’s Tech. Sgt. Dylan Nuckolls — were taken aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker refuelling aircraft.
Australian Aviation first reported earlier this month how the UFO-like B-2s arrived at RAAF Base Amberley from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
The stealth B-2 is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It has a crew of two pilots: one in the left seat and a mission commander in the right.
It was first publicly displayed in 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42 in California, before its maiden flight the next year.
“This deployment of the B-2 to Australia demonstrates and enhances the readiness and lethality of our long-range penetrating strike force,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, commander of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.
“We look forward to training and enhancing our interoperability with our RAAF teammates, as well as partners and allies across the Indo-Pacific as we meet PACAF objectives.”
Confirmed aircraft to have flown over Australia include:
- 82-1068 ‘Spirit of New York’ as RAVE11;
- 82-1070 ‘Spirit of Ohio’ at RAVE12;
- 82-1067 ‘Spirit of Arizona as RAVE21; and
- 90-0040 ‘Spirit of Alaska as RAVE22.
The F-35, meanwhile, is Australia’s newest fighter, bought to replace the RAAF’s F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that were in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with all expected to be fully operational by 2023. So far, the RAAF’s fleet includes 50.
The aircraft have already clocked over 15,000 flight hours and achieved initial operational capability, making it combat-ready.
The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A — purchased by Australia — is a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).