Top guns take off the gloves

THE East Coast Air Defence Exercise is now in full swing off the coast of Evans Head, with 28 high-tech jet fighters being pushed to their supersonic limits.

Air combat commander, Air Commodore Neil Hart, said they were now escalating the exercises as pilots and crews were familiarised with the scenarios.

“Basically the Blue Force (flying out of Williamtown RAAF Air Base near Newcastle) is defending and the Red Force (flying out of Amberley RAAF Air Base near Ipswich) is attacking,” he said.

The forces are engaging offshore between Evans Head and the Mid-North Coast.

“There’s been shoots and kills on both side, but we’re still in the work-up phase where the Blue Force is learning how to spread and layer its defences,” he said.

“We have restricted Red Force’s attack until Blue Force has properly established their defence posture.

“Blue Force is doing okay. They’re learning a lot, but the real test will be next week when the gloves come off. Red Force will have a lot more freedom to attack then.

“A lot of the exercises begin with standard procedures and tactics, but this isn’t like reading a road map.

“They’re operating in three dimensional air space and a lot of tactics will go supersonic, so there’s lots of room for free play.

“The pilots, crew and controllers are really enjoying it. The young ones are quite competitive, which is how they learn.

“You have to be competitive and decisive to do this, and be able to show initiative.”

Yesterday’s blue skies were a welcome change, allowing pilots to pick up the pace and raise the intensity of the exercises.

“We have all-weather, day/night capability, but in bad weather we have to increase lateral and altitude separation. But both sides are operating under the same conditions so we can still fly the tactics,” he said.

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