Exercise Lightning Storm has concluded after three weeks of intensive aerial combat training on the east coast of Australia.

Running from August 10 to September 4, the exercise was a key Air Force activity designed to integrate people and systems while continuing to test the capabilities of the F-35A Lightning II.  

Commander Air Combat Group Air Commodore Tim Alsop said the exercise was an essential part of continuation training to ensure air and ground forces could maintain their operational readiness, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

"Lightning Storm was an opportunity to test the ability of our people to operate at a sustained high rate of effort while conducting a trial 'deployment' of the F-35A to the 3 Squadron hangar.

"The team proved that they could operate effectively from a deployed location, while also using the opportunity to identify and tweak any issues."

Air Commodore Alsop said running a major exercise during COVID-19 hadn't been without its challenges but ultimately it had pushed participants to consider alternate ways of doing business.

"COVID-19 is a hurdle, but it forced the team to adapt to a 'contested environment'. Through deliberate and lateral thinking, we were able to modify many existing protocols to support the higher rate of effort.

"Exercise Lightning Storm has ensured Air Combat Group have been able to get back on track with the training continuum. With the cancellation of Exercise Pitch Black 20, we lost an important component of our annual large force employment training.

"We have a number of new capabilities across Air Force and our ability to bring them together in a complementary and integrated package is what makes us so successful.

"The long hours of realistic training are key to our ability to turn out world-class air and ground crew."