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Super Hornets and Spartans wrap Malaysia exercise

written by Adam Thorn | October 20, 2023

RAAF avionics technicians perform maintenance on a F/A-18F Super Hornet at RMAF Butterworth during Exercise Bersama Lima 2023 (Defence)

RAAF Super Hornet and Spartan aircraft have finished training in Malaysia as part of Exercise Bersama Lima 2023.

In total, more than 400 ADF personnel trained with troops from Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom for the two-week program, which kicked off on 4 October.

The annual exercise is conducted by ‘five powers’ countries, as dictated by the agreement signed by the countries in 1971.

F/A-18F Super Hornet pilot Flight Lieutenant Russel said the integration between the five nations has involved everything from air planning and working with Malaysian mission controllers to flying mixed formations with various fast-jet aircraft.

“We’ve been exercising an air component defence off the Malaysian Peninsula, including down to Singapore,” FLTLT Russel said.


“We’ve been working closely with the maritime capabilities of the five nations to identify simulated threats to either maritime assets or Malaysian land targets.

“When an aircraft is detected, we proceed to intercept, identify, and engage those targets as a combined force, which is a great opportunity for us to train with our partners.

“Our technical and maintenance staff work around the clock to make sure the aircraft are good to go for each mission.

“We’re also really fortunate to operate out of RMAF Butterworth, which has strong ties to the RAAF. We’ve got the support of 19 Squadron based here, which has made our deployment run really smoothly.

“Working to become familiar operating away from our main bases is huge. Getting the experience of flying in Southeast Asia, including the weather here, is really important.

“When you get people coming from all over the world to a location that’s unfamiliar to them, working with the locals here to learn the best way to get the mission done has been fantastic for all the nations.”

Today, the RAAF has 24 Super Hornets and 11 Growlers, which have also participated in Exercise Pitch Black in the Northern Territory and Exercise Bersama Shield on the Malaysian Peninsula.

Both models are operated out of RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland after arriving in 2010 and achieved final operational capability in 2012.

The US Navy has a fleet of more than 600 Super Hornets, and the aircraft were flown in Top Gun: Maverick.

Australia meanwhile has 10 Spartans operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, which now focuses on peacetime operations such as search and rescue and aeromedical operations.

Australian Aviation reported last year how Leonardo won a $70 million contract to replace and upgrade the radio capability on Australia’s Spartan fleet.

Air Vice-Marshal Leon Phillips, head of aerospace systems division, said, “Upgrading the cryptographic radio function of the C-27J platform will ensure ongoing availability of secure communications, including interoperability with key strategic partners and intelligence networks, and increased overall safety for our Australian Defence Force personnel.”

Leonardo, the original manufacturer of the Spartan, was selected as the prime contractor, and the ‘Commonwealth Avionics Upgrade’ will begin in September 2023 at Amberley.

The work is due to be completed in 2026.

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