Australia – Next generation of fighter pilots gear up for final test


Australia’s next generation of fighter pilots are set to graduate as F/A-18 Hornet pilots as they prepare to return to RAAF Townsville in North Queensland to participate in Exercise HIGH SIERRA.

The pilots from No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales will be put through their paces during the final phase of the six-month long operational conversion course.

Exercise HIGH SIERRA will be conducted from 21 November to 8 December and represents the last three weeks of the F/A-18 operational conversion course, which converts fighter pilots from the Hawk Mk127 Lead-in-fighter aircraft to the F/A-18 Hornet.

More than 150 Air Force personnel and up to 12 F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets will arrive at RAAF Townsville on Friday 18 November in preparation for this vital training activity, which will be conducted in the Shoalwater Bay and Townsville Field training areas.

The exercise allows Air Force to maintain its key capabilities such as the performance of precision strike missions.

It also provides participants with high complexity air combat training opportunities for Air Force to test and practice its deployment capabilities so that it can operate away from its home bases when necessary.

Commanding Officer of No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, Wing Commander David Smith, said the exercise was the culmination of six months of intensive training on the F/A-18 for his students.

“Exercise HIGH SIERRA represents vital training for the next generation of Air Force fighter pilots. They must achieve and maintain the skills needed to operate very sophisticated flight and weapons systems, ultimately for the defence of our nation and to maintain peace and security into the future,” Wing Commander Smith said.

“The Squadron is looking forward to returning to Townsville on deployment this year. We all have fond memories of the region from previous exercises. Townsville is a great place to operate from. I’d like to thank Townsville and surrounding community for their ongoing support of our vital training requirements.”

Exercise HIGH SIERRA will involve day and night flying operations. There is no planned exercise flying on weekends with all week day operations scheduled to conclude by 10pm. Members of the community are encouraged to contact 1800 555 478 for information on flying activities.

Press release
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, Australia

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