US Marines fly RAAF F-35As

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Two US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B pilots flew Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35As during Exercise Magpie Lightning.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Guyette and Major John Rose, the USMC pilots who flew the F-35As, serve as the commanding officer and executive officer, respectively, of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 214.

VMFA-214 deployed to RAAF Tindal with eight F-35B aircraft in May this year for bilateral training, including on a range of interchangeability initiatives. Interchangeability has seceded interoperability as the goal for integration between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and US Department of Defense. 

“Interoperability is two different organisations figuring out ways to work together; interchangeability means the entire allied F-35 force can pool parts, maintainers, weapons, tactics — and now pilots and aircraft — to accomplish any mission,” Lt. Col. Guyette said. 

In an example of interchangeability during the exercise, RAAF aviators with No. 75 Squadron loaded Australian GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, assembled from Australian-built BLU-111(AUS)B/B bomb units, onto USMC F-35Bs. 

"The most impressive aspect of the exercise has been the depth of interoperability and interchangeability between our two nations," said Wing Commander Andrew Nilson, commanding officer of No. 75 Squadron.

The level of integration achieved during the deployment was a result of VFMA-214's consistent training with the RAAF, including all three RAAF F-35A squadrons over the last year. 

"This ‘fight together’ mindset has also been enhanced by the personal relationships established between the Marine Corps and the RAAF,” Major Ross said.

“VMFA-214 and RAAF No. 75 squadron were on the same tactical page from day one.”

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