A SHARED platform for 10 years, the C-17A Globemaster III was the heavy lift backbone of United States and Australian military forces, but maintenance programs remained separate.

Under the latest phase of the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) program, Operation Pacific Agility had a group of 19 United States Air Force (USAF) C-17 maintainers deployed to RAAF Amberley, where they worked with 36 Squadron technicians, sharing knowledge and skills on keeping the transport aircraft "fit to fly".

Wing Commander Mick Doerfling, overseeing 36 Squadron, operating the RAAF's C-17 fleet, said the aircraft first entered RAAF service 10 years ago, and over the years there was "a lot" of cooperative work with US forces.

Leading Aircraftman Aaron Kouyoumtzoglou and Staff Sergeant Dustin Sheffield lock wiring a fuel filter during Exercise Pacific Agility
Leading Aircraftman Aaron Kouyoumtzoglou and Staff Sergeant Dustin Sheffield lock wiring a fuel filter during Exercise Pacific Agility CPL Brenton Kwaterski

"We have the same training and manuals, our aircraft are operated in similar specifications, the aim of this exercise is to better integrate the two airforces," Wing Commander Doerfling said.

The long term aim of the co-operation between maintainers was to allow USAF aircraft to be repaired at Amberley, and RAAF aircraft to make use of US bases and maintainers.

"As an air force, the RAAF is smaller than the USAF, it can expand our operational capability."

The 19-man USAF team was drawn from a number of operational commands, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Shepherd, from the Pacific Air Force headquarters at Hickam Field, Hawaii.

"This is a great partnership, we have a common platform, we need to get common engagement and develop an understanding between our maintainers," Lt Col Shepherd said.

"We work closely together, we want to get a better understanding between our maintainers."

WNG CMDR Doerfling said there were some challenges to overcome, with the structure of the RAAF technical workforce "slightly different" to the USAF system.

"We want to create a cultural understanding, in the RAAF we have two basic trades, avionics and airframe, where the USAF has six or more specialities," he said.

There was also the potential to create shared flight lines in the future, WNG CMDR Doerfling said, allowing maintainers from both air forces to work on one another's equipment.

"But right now we want to look to improve our processes, and maybe improve theirs."

As a follow up to the current Operation Pacific Agility, WNG CMDR Doerfling said 36 SQN would be sending a group of maintainers to Hickam Field, to work on USAF aircraft.

"The aim will be to take some of the same guys who have worked with the Americans here, cross pollination is useful."

While the initial focus is on the C-17 airframe, WNG CMDR Doerfling said the EAC does look at expanding to other airframes.

"As a small aitr force, it makes sense to have partnerships with other air forces."

Master Sergeant Bryan Bennett, the C-17 functional manager at Pacific Air Forces Headquarters, based at Hickam Field, said the two groups had worked together well."It couldn't have gone better, the technical data is the same, they have the same language in each set of books, it eliminates confusion when working on the aircraft." Master Sergeant Bennett said.

"I oversee the aircraft itself at a depot level, we carry out upgrades and unscheduled maintenance of the aircraft, as well as overseeing the supply chain."

With 17 Globemaster aircraft under his control, Master Sergeant Bennett said the sharing of information between the two groups had gone well.

"They learn a lot from us, and we have learnt a lot from them, the scheduled maintenance of the aircraft is the same, we use the same work cards and job guides, and the safety standards are the same."



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