RAAF participates in Exercise Lightning Spear 2021

  • Published
  • By Capt. Savanah Bray
  • 53rd Wing
New F-35As from the Royal Australian Air Force’s No 77 Squadron participated in Exercise Lightning Spear 2021, a live-missile firing event supported by the 53rd Wing and Eglin Air Force Base.
According to Wing Commander Tim Ireland, Commanding Officer No 77 Squadron and F-35A pilot, Exercise Lightning Spear is an aerial lethality operational test event focused on evaluating the entire unit from logistics to maintenance to support the AIM-120D Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile combat capability on their F-35s.
“The F-35 is a truly integrated capability in the battle space, and what we learn here will inform how we operate the jet in a joint and combined high-end fight,” said Wing Commander Ireland. “AMRAAM is our primary air-to-air weapon, so it's important that we test it end to end.”
This is the second year the RAAF has traveled to Eglin Air Force Base for Exercise Lightning Spear to put their brand-new F-35s through air-to-air weapons testing. In 2020, they fired live missiles from their then-new aircraft, and in 2021, No 77 Squadron brought three more aircraft straight from the factory.
Since 1942, No 77 Squadron has operated in defense of Australia, and to test their air-to-air weapons capability, there was no better place for them to come than Eglin Air Force Base and work with the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group, which is responsible for live missile firing, training and evaluation across the Department of Defense.
“Eglin is really the only place in the world that we can do this. From the base support, to the test facilities, to access to the system engineers, and the vast weapons range,” said Wing Commander Ireland. “It’s also been great to work with RAAF members permanently based here at Australia-Canada-United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory, who are responsible for reprogramming our mission data.
The 53rd Wing provides tactical advantage to the warfighter at the speed of relevance. By testing new operational capabilities and evaluating fielded capabilities, the 53rd Wing is bringing the future faster while answering the warfighter’s demands for integrated, multi-domain capabilities.