US Raptors set to exercise down under

Max Blenkin, Defence Correspondent

RAAF combat aircraft are set to operate with US F-22 Raptor aircraft in joint exercises over Australian territory next year.

In the latest move in the US-Australia defence relationship, Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, said he and Australian defence head Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin have signed an agreement on "force posture initiative" for coming years.

He told the Lowy Institute in Sydney the intent was to expand and increase opportunities for joint and combined training for forces located in Australia.

That includes the ongoing US Marine Corps training in the Top End plus enhanced air co-operation.

"We are exploring greater integration of fifth generation fighter deployments to Australia and plan to see significant activities in 2017," he said.

The RAAF is acquiring advanced fifth generation aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning, but they won't be in service until next decade. F-35s are now entering service with the US Air Force and Marine Corps.

Admiral Harris said the F-22 was the US' current fifth generation fighter which was in service in good numbers.

"So we are going to bring down some F-22s to work with Australia to demonstrate the airplane and some of the unique maintenance and other aspects of fifth generation airframes," he said.

Fifth generation aircraft are the world's most advanced fighters and bombers, nearly invisible to radar, featuring advanced radars and the capability to network to other aircraft, ships and ground stations.

Raptor is generally regarded as the world's most advanced operational combat aircraft.

RAAF pilots have exercised with USAF Raptors in the US, while a few Raptors have visited Australia for airshows.