Fighter jets to light up the night

RAAF F/A-18 Hornets (pictured) along with numerous other aircraft will fly day and night combat missions over Evans Head this week.
RAAF F/A-18 Hornets (pictured) along with numerous other aircraft will fly day and night combat missions over Evans Head this week.

IF YOU see strange lights and weird activity in the skies off Evans Head this week don’t freak out.

It’s not a foreign invasion or UFOs running amuck.

The Royal Australian Air Force is conducting a week of ‘essential night flying operations’ involving up to 30 aircraft including three squadrons of F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters. The exercise will also involve F-111 and Hawk jet fighters and two mid-air tanking aircraft.

Keen plane spotters should keep an eagle-eye out for a United States Air Force B52 that will be flying out of Guam for the exercises but not landing.

Air Commodore Neil Hart, said residents would receive minimum disturbance as all the exercises would be conducted offshore and the aircraft would be flying out of RAAF Bases at Williamtown, Newcastle, and Amberley in Brisbane.

“We will be using the airspace off the coast,” Air Commodore Hart said.

“Residents probably won’t see much during the day but they might see our night flying waves which will appear in the night sky as multiple flares between 9pm and 11.30pm.

“There will be up to 30 aircraft in each wave trying to create complex and realistic scenarios to test our air defence capabilities.

“But it’s also to develop new tactics and procedures for our new equipment and software.

“The other important aspect is to develop the skills of our personnel. A lot of young officers haven’t applied these skills in such large scale operations before.

“It’s not only for air crews and ground crews but also for combat controllers, battlespace managers and other more senior guys looking to develop their leadership skills. It’s an opportunity for everyone to step up.”

“Most of the ‘fighting’ will occur around the Mid North Coast as the red (enemy) airspace starts at Evans Head, but with these systems, weapons and numbers of aircraft airborne it will take up a lot of airspace.”

All ‘fighting’ and ‘weapons’ will be simulated.

Air Commodore Hart is himself an F/A-18 Hornet pilot who has been flying jet fighters for 25 years.

“It’s a great job, though it was pretty hectic in the early days with a long training schedule working up to flight instructor or mission commander.”

When asked about the thrill of those low passes Evans Head residents are familiar with he replied, “well, flying down low doing 800 km/h does tend to focus your mind.”

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