An important element of an Air Force exercise is the opportunity to test the capability of people and equipment away from the familiarity of the home base. With a reduction in the ability to travel in 2020, squadrons have explored more unique ways to get the same results.

Originally planning to travel to RAAF Base Tindal to conduct Exercise Lightning Storm, No. 3 Squadron instead put its personnel and systems to the test by conducting a simulated deployment in their own hangars at RAAF Base Williamtown.

No. 3 Squadron aircraft maintenance officer Flying Officer Aimee Parsons said in order to make the deployment as realistic as possible, each team had to prepare their work area to be transported, then team and equipment were relocated to a different area of the F-35A Lightning II facility.

"The logistics section had a lot of prep work in the weeks leading up to the exercise as they prepared the equipment and set up the deployed tooling and spares within the hangar," Flying Officer Parsons said.

"The exercise has been a good test for what we realistically will require to pack for a deployment.

"The majority of the maintenance team moved into the flightline area which provided a more restricted working accommodation setup, like what is often experienced in the deployed environment.

"We also amended our working day so that shift constructs mirrored that of an actual exercise, which means coverage over a longer period each day."

Flying Officer Parsons said because it was the first time the squadron had "deployed" the F-35A, there had been number of invaluable learning points.

"There have been a huge amount of lessons learnt from this exercise, from how to troubleshoot unexpected software issues to experiencing how our people overcome challenges safely and efficiently in order to maintain successful operations," she said.

"With our highest rate of effort to date, the squadron has produced 100 per cent of jets required, ready to go, on time during Lightning Storm. This is an extraordinary achievement and one that has been fulfilled through the hard work and problem-solving of the whole team. 

"Being our first exercise, it has also brought the team closer together. I’ve been impressed with the attitudes demonstrated at all levels with each challenge we’ve faced. It has shown that we have the flexibility required to carry out our work in a complex environment while continuing to meet training objectives."