Exercise Centenarie Redimus: Honouring aviation history

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    Flight Lieutenant Max Harlen (6 Squadron) and Pilot Officer Luke Marsden (2FTS) after their flight in the EA-18G Growler at RAAF Base Pearce.

    RAAF Base Pearce hosted two specialised electronic attack aircraft in April, the EA-18G Growler, as part of Exercise Centenarie Redimus, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first circumnavigation flight of Australia by Wing Commander Stanley Goble and Flight Lieutenant Ivor McIntyre in their Fairey IIID seaplane.

    Two EA-18 Growlers were deployed through RAAF bases Townsville, Scherger, Darwin, Pearce, and East Sale, replicating as close as possible to the circumnavigation, and providing the current 6 Squadron aviators with the privilege to commemorate what was a historic event for both aviation in Australia, but also the Royal Australian Air Force.

    It also provided a fantastic opportunity for selected students at 1 Flying Training School in Edinburgh and 2 Flying Training School here at Pearce to experience flying in this specialised aircraft, that has a maximum speed of 1960 km/h – much quicker than the PC-21 training aircraft they used to, which moves at the comparatively glacial pace of 685 km/h!

    Pilot Officer Luke Marsden from 2FTS was one of the students selected and reflecting on his experience, said, “It was an awesome ride – a lot of fun. Everything happens a lot quicker!”

    Flight Lieutenant Max Harlen of 6 Squadron, who led the flight, highlighted the unique capability of Growlers, saying, “The biggest difference between this and the other fast jets we have is that it is an electronic warfare aircraft. So, it can deny, disrupt, and degrade enemy electronic warfare. That is its primary difference in its job to say a Super Hornet or a F-35.”

    6 Squadron’s Commanding Officer Steven Thornton outlined the objectives of Exercise Centenarie Redimus: “Our first goal was to recreate the circumnavigation, but we are also linking into our second and third objective, which is to exercise agile operations with a small maintenance footprint and the air crew doing most of the maintenance. So, in places like Townsville, Scherger, Darwin, Port Hedland, Pearce, East Sale, and then back to Amberley, the air crew will be doing most of the maintenance – that is refuelling before and after flying, making sure it is serviceable and ready to go.

    “The third objective was to come to the west – we really want to motivate the next generation of aviators, specifically for fast jets. Historically that has not happened as much as we would like, so this is a great opportunity to go around Australia.”

    Interestingly, the first circumnavigation flight of Australia was not achieved until five years after the first flight from England to Australia, due to Australia being so vast and undeveloped. It was conducted in a sea plane partly due to a lack of runways at the time, and surveying the land for potential runway locations was part of the objective of that trip.

    2016 Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Michael Smith is also undertaking a re-enactment of the first circumnavigation of Australia in his modern seaplane ‘Southern Sun’, matching date-by-date 44-day original journey of Wing Commander Goble and Flight Lieutenant McIntyre. Michael is scheduled to be in Perth on May 11, and you can follow his journey at www.southernsun.voyage/aroundoz100.