Exercise Arnhem Thunder


By Flight Lieutenant Robert Cochran

Air Force has deployed approximately 50 aircraft and over 500 personnel to the Northern Territory for Exercise Arnhem Thunder 21.

As one of Air Force’s largest domestic training exercises for 2021, Arnhem Thunder provides important force generation training, focusing on high-end collective training and involving multiple Force Element Groups (FEGs).

Commander Air Combat Group, Air Commodore Tim Alsop, said Arnhem Thunder focused on Air Combat Group’s interoperability with other FEGs – Air Mobility Group, Surveillance and Response Group, and Combat Support Group – in an offensive counter-air environment from a deployed location.

“Exposure to large-scale, multi-FEG scenarios in an away-base environment is of vital importance to the training outcomes of all elements across Air Force,” Air Commodore Alsop said.

“Operating out of RAAF bases Darwin and Tindal in the Northern Territory, Exercise Arnhem Thunder provides an excellent venue for cross-FEG interoperability, high-end air power missions, as well as airbase activation in an austere environment.

“The exercise will begin with force integration training and large force employment scenarios, followed by a forward operating base being activated by a contingency response squadron and other combat support elements.

“Collective training for missions such as this must be routinely practiced so that Air Force is ready to respond to the defence of Australia when required.

“We are all very excited about being in the Top End to carry out our training and I thank the local community for their support.”

Arnhem Thunder will be conducted from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal from 17 May to 15 June 2021 and will utilise the Mount Bundey Training Area, and Delamere Air Weapons Range.

Aircraft deployed to the exercise include the F-35A Lightning II, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, F/A-18A/B Hornet, Hawk 127, C-130J Hercules, C-17A Globemaster, C-27J Spartan, KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport, and E-7A Wedgetail.

Arnhem Thunder will see the F-35A Lightning II operate out of RAAF Base Darwin for the very first time….

This article was published by the Australian Department of Defence on May 17, 2021.

Editor’s Note:

There is a significant rethink underway in Australia about shaping a way ahead for defense from Western Australia, to Northern Australia out to the first island chain.

See, for example:

Re-Focusing on Northern Australia in the Defense of Australia


The Defense of Northern Australia: Its Strategic Impact