The Royal Australian Air Force’s biggest airlifters and key personnel have returned home after dominating air mobility goals over Washington for Exercise Mobility Guardian in the United States. 

More than 110 personnel from both Air Force and Army were tested from September 8-28 in mass casualty, natural disaster response, crucial airdrops, air-to-air refuelling and austere environment operations as part of the training to enhance joint interoperability. 

Air Force’s C-17A Globemaster and KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft completed missions out of Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane in Washington, alongside more than 300 international personnel from nine other nations.

The exercise tested interoperability in air-to-air refuelling of the KC-30A, the sharing of the Five Eyes nation’s aeromedical equipment and knowledge, and large-scale formation air drops out of the C-17A, partner C-130 Hercules models and C-5 Galaxy aircraft.

The contingent was also comprised of aircrew, engineers, logisticians and supporting roles, as well as air drop riggers from Army’s No. 176 Air Dispatch Squadron. 

Combat Support Group also played a key role, with deployment of No. 383 Contingency Response Squadron to Travis Air Force Base in California where they projected to two other austere airfields to provide operational support. 

“Mobility Guardian has enabled us to blend our capabilities together by teaching and using the same, or similar, processes.”

Wing Commander Sarah Stalker, RAAF Mobility Guardian Detachment Commander and Commanding Officer No. 33 Squadron, said integrating with the United States Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has been invaluable.

“The Air Force Interoperability Council (AFIC) planned Mobility Guardian to be packed with opportunities for our air forces to work together and learn from each other,” Wing Commander Stalker said.

“Following this training and standardisation with our counterparts, we can now select resources from anywhere around the world and bring together an international and efficient team with the appropriate level of support to complete short-notice coalition tasks.”

Wing Commander Stalker said an aeromedical evacuation (AME) team, comprised of personnel from Health Services Wing, completed more than 50 sorties in three weeks and treated 1300 ‘patients’ for realistic training scenarios. 

“This AME training is essential when responding to humanitarian aid and disaster relief requests,” she said.

Squadron Leader Paul White, NZDF Mobility Guardian Detachment Commander and National Program Manager for AFIC, said that the key objectives for his team were to seamlessly fly and work with foreign aircraft and personnel.

“Mobility Guardian has enabled us to blend our capabilities together by teaching and using the same, or similar, processes and agreed TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures),” Squadron Leader White said.

“As the geopolitical landscape shifts in the Indo Pacific, it is paramount that the Australian Defence Force and NZDF are supported by the right allies, people and skills to secure our region.”