Top Gun in the Top End takes off over NT

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Tom Cruise won’t be flying but Australia’s best airforce pilots are set to soar in the skies above the Northern Territory for a local version of Top Gun.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s Exercise Diamond Storm 22 to train the best of the best in air war takes off on Monday, the Australian Defence Force says.

“The air warfare instructor course is absolutely about training our equivalent of Top Gun graduates here in Australia,” Group Captain Matthew Harper told reporters.

“We’re most closely linked with the US Airforce. We have very close links with the Top Gun course.”

More than 60 Australian and US aircraft will be used in the bi-annual exercise that runs until late June, including F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters.

“We’ve got almost every capability across the force here looking to fly,” Capt Matthews said.

The massive operation will also employ more than 1400 Australian and US servicemen and women, including observers from the US Top Gun and US Airforce weapons instructor courses.

“The fantastic thing about coming up to the NT is that we just have a huge amount of airspace,” Capt Matthews said.

“It gives us the opportunity to really spread out and solve some quite complicated tactical problems.”

Capt Matthews said extra space would help make the training more realistic.

“You just can’t get training like this anywhere else in Australia,” he said.

Aircraft will take off from RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal and fly throughout the NT, including Darwin, Katherine, Timber Creek, Douglas Daly region.

Pilots will also deploy weapons at the Delamere Air Weapons Range, about 120 km from Katherine.

The exercise brings together a range of war fighting specialties to develop expert air warfare instructors who will be the Australia’s next generation of tactical and integrated air combat experts.

Capt Matthews said the trainee instructors are senior airforce aviators who are taking the next step in their careers and learning to train others in air war.

This happens through a series of air exercises that requires problems to be solved while flying and later analysis of the outcomes.

The exercise comes as the movie Top Gun: Maverick, staring actor Tom Cruise, shows in cinemas across Australia.

The movie was released more than 35 years after the actor appeared in the original Top Gun movie in 1986.

It was about a fictional pilot named Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, played by Mr Cruise, attending the US Navy’s elite pilot Top Gun school.

Aaron Bunch
(Australian Associated Press)

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