Fight's on at
Australian F-111s at
Published with the express
permission of 'Strike Publications'
The next time the dawn hits Sunrise Mountain, the six
F-111s will be ready to take on all comers in
Exercise GREEN FLAG
Story by Phil Smith
Photographs by Mal Lancaster (Defence Force PR)
|The prospect of
Amberley-based F-111s versus former East German MiG fighter jets and the opportunity to
put newly-upgraded F-111s up with NATOs best was like a red rag to a bull for 82
Wing. The RAAF has deployed six jets and 100 personnel to Nellis AFB, Nevada for Exercise
Green Flag 99. At the last minute the Luftwaffe changed its mind and left its short-range
Migs in Europe, but the deployment still marked the first time Australia has been invited
to the Green Flag series, and provided a great opportunity to build credibility, according
to Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron. "Australias involvement alongside
five NATO members shows we are ready and able to take part in a coalition force as an
equal partner," Wing Commander Kim Osley said.
Bone dry in the Nevada desert. The flight from Australia was a thirsty one, but the
F-111s' pylons will carry far different loads during Green Flag. CPL's Glen Bowman,
Robert Couchman and Daniel Logan remove the long range fuel tanks on arrival at Nellis
|And in the current world environment, if
Australia ever deployed RAAF strike assets operationally, it would probably be as part of
a coalition force. Inter-operability is a significant buzzword in the present
situation. US Navy and Air Force units, as well as British, Spanish, Canadian and German
units began training over the desert ranges two days ago. Green Flag
places the large attacking formations in a high-technology, high-intensity electronic
warfare environment, working against a wide range of ground-based and airborne threats.
Performing maintenance on the F-111C radar.
|The USAF Base at Nellis is one of the
Desert Mafia, a small group of specialised military bases tasked with high
level training. They include Marine and Navy ranges running Strike and Top Gun programmes.
The region features diverse terrain from salt lakes to snow-capped mountains, and offers
around 300 days per year of unlimited ceiling and visibility. The bombing ranges around
Nellis, north-west of Las Vegas, are fully instrumented to allow electronic and visual
recording of every move made by every aircraft on every mission. When the mission is
played up on the big screen at the debrief, theres no room for guess work and
everyone knows for certain whether the weapons went on target on time, or if in fact, the
interceptors won the day.
82WG maintenance personnel returning from the
flightline. Behind is the imposing view of
|To add to the realism, the
desert flats and gullies are dotted with look-alike defence and anti-aircraft
installations, ranging from former soviet bloc mobile radars to inert surface-to-air
missiles that give aircrews an adrenaline rushing smoke trail as a visual cue.
Many analysts suggest
that rapid development of electronic threats has outstripped actual weapons technology,
pitting strike aircraft against highly sophisticated tracking, targeting and jamming
systems long before they are dodging incoming projectiles.
|But three months before the F-111 aircrews
began dodging Smokey SAMs and checking six for the aggressors, the
ground crew was busy. A dedicated team of around 60 personnel had to prepare for a
deployment to a foreign base, with a now unique jet and the knowledge that what they could
carry in a C130 was all they would have by way of spares and tools. Since last year, the
USAF no longer operates F-111 jets. WOFF Engineer, Anthony Steelo Lindsay,
headed a team of aviation technicians, avionics technicians, weapons specialists and
"We have to be
basically self-sufficient," WOFF Lindsay said.
"We cant just ring up Sacramento any more and say send such and such
down, and this is the first time the guys have been in that situation."
No secrets here. CPL David Harvey and SGT
Phil Pluis check Radio Telemetry pods that will link back to Nellis AFB every move the
WOFF Engineer Anthony 'Steelo' Lindsay with one of the USAF security personnel on the
|Members of the ground crew
team followed the jets across the world by Hercules, launching and recovering the F-111s
at Pago Pago and Hawaii. After arriving at Nellis AFB, near Las Vegas they prepared the
six aircraft for taxing missions over the following nine days of Green Flag.
"I would like to think that the guys will
become more self-sufficient," he said. "They realise they have to think
outside the square, scrounging, begging and stealing whatever isnt nailed down, to
keep the aeroplanes flying."
WOFF Lindsay described his troops as keen
and well aware that each one earned his or her place at Green Flag.
|"Its a big tick in
the box for these guys, theyre multi-skilled, with a lot of them qualified in
two trades now." "It sounds simple if you say it quickly," said WGCDR
"Were going to take six jets ten thousand miles, prepare the lot, for morning
familiarity flights on the range, turn all six around again to do the same thing in the
afternoon. For the following nine days well achieve a four-turn-two routine for
morning and afternoon waves with limited spares and equipment, pack it all up, and return
Image courtesy of On-Target and Pat Crain
Also see the article "F-111 carries the Raptor Pod" republished here.
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25 pages of F-111C/G and EF-111A articles, as well as articles about
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