The big sting lands

By STEVE GRAY

RAAF Base Amberley became a hornet's nest yesterday when Australia's front-line F/A 18 Hornet fighters queued up on the tarmac.

They are here for a joint military exercise in central Queensland.

The six jets, which swept down from the Northern Territory at 1000kmh, will be based in Ipswich during the Talisman Sabre 05 exercise.

The Hornets will fly sorties with Amberley's F-111 strike aircraft to the Shoalwater Bay training area near Rockhampton and over the Coral Sea during Talisman Sabre 05, which begins on Monday.

More than 6000 Australian and 11,000 US personnel will participate.

Talisman Sabre's primary aim is to conduct collective training and exercise interoperability between Australian and US forces.

Wing Commander Steve Roberton of 75 Squadron said they would engage in build-up exercises with the F-111s before coming up against the US Navy.

"We're very confident of doing well," Wg Cdr Roberton said.

"We've done lots of exercises with the US forces before, we've been to war with them, so we've got a very good benchmark on our relative performance."

The secret weapon of 75 Squadron may well be United States Marine Corps pilot Major Bill Barber, who is on a two-year secondment from his home in San Diego.

"There's always one Marine assigned to 75 Squadron, and there's always a RAAF Hornet pilot assigned to one of the squadrons within the Marine Corps," he said.

"I've really, really enjoyed it. The Aussies are extremely professional and they've done a great job maintaining the aircraft, and employing them.

"It's really a top-notch operation."

More on Talisman Sabre 05 is available at www.defence.gov.au/talisman?sabre