KATHERINE has become a temporary home to a special group of visitors who are getting a supersonic look at the vast landscape of the Top End.
As part of Exercise Arnhem Thunder, about 140 members of No. 77 Squadron have converged on RAAF Base Tindal for three weeks of training, utilising the Delamere Air Weapons Range and the Bradshaw Field Training Area.
The squadron is based at RAAF Base Williamtown, near the New South Wales city of Newcastle, and its commanding officer, Wing Commander Ben Sleeman, said the exercise presented a unique flying opportunity for the 18 pilots.
“It’s basically our once-a-year bombing camp, so we use the Delamere range to the south-west of here, and Bradshaw out to the west, which are facilities we don’t have access to in Newcastle readily,” he told the Katherine Times.
“Williamtown is good, but it’s restrictive, and here is anything but restrictive.”
W Cdr Sleeman said most of No. 77 Squadron’s flying was done over water of the east coast of Australia and said flying in the Northern Territory took some adjustment.
“We do have some training areas over land, out near Singleton and up the Hunter Valley area, but it’s very heavily populated,” he explained.
“Where as here, you just take off and, wow, fantastic.
“It’s different here.
“The trees here are smaller, so when you low fly, you obviously see the trees rushing past and, because the trees are smaller, you can actually get too low, because you’re waiting for the same ground rush, but the trees aren’t as big.”
The flying component of the exercise will conclude on October 22.
“That’s the end of our flying, Wednesday night,” W Cdr Sleeman said.
“Thursday, we’ll basically take all the weaponeering stuff off ... and give the maintenance people a chance to fix anything we may have broken on Wednesday night.
“We will probably launch three to five [F/A-18 Classic Hornets] home on Thursday and then the rest on Friday.”