Recently the announcement was made by the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, regarding the deployment of USAF F-22 Raptors from the 90th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing to Northern Australia. This deployment is part of the first Enhanced Air Co-operation (EAC) activity in Australia, an element of the United State’s Force Posture Initiatives.

As with most deployments, the need arises for some logistical movements to be carried out, especially to pre-position personnel and equipment in advance of arriving aircraft. With the USAF receiving their Raptor aircraft into Tindal, this was no different.


Kalitta Air N403KZ

This contracted movements function was provided by Omni Air International based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, operating a B767-328 (ER), and Kalitta Air based out of Ypsilanti, Michigan, operating two B747-481 (F)s. Between the three aircraft, they delivered personnel, equipment and spares to Tindal via Darwin.


Kalitta Air 747-481F N403KZ arriving into a cloudy RAAF Darwin.

The first to arrive on Sunday after a 13 hour flight from Elmendorf AFB in Alaska, the 90th Fighter Squadron’s home base, was Kalitta Air’s 747 N403KZ, carrying the Santiago Cherry Express label having recently delivered tonnes of cherries to Zhengzhou.


Kalitta Air 747-481F N403KZ sporting the Santiago Cherry Express label.

N403KZ remained in Darwin until it’s Wednesday return flight to and from Tindal, after which it departed for Andersen AFB in Guam early Thursday morning.


Kalitta Air 747-481F

The second to arrive on Sunday after a 7.5 hour flight from Chubu Centrair International Airport, Japan, was OAI’s 767-328ER, sporting the smart Omni Air International maroon and champagne livery.


Omni Air International 767-328ER N342AX departing for Tindal

N342AX was only to stay in the NT for a day before departing back to Japan early Monday.


Omni 335

The second Kalitta Air 747, N401KZ, arrived on Monday, also after a long 13 hour flight from Elmendorf AFB in Alaska. This aircraft appearing in plain white with it’s Kalitta name emblazoned in red.


Kalitta Air 747-481F N401KZ parked up – Darwin.

N401KZ remained in Darwin until it’s Thursday return flight to and from Tindal, after which it departed for Osan Air Base in South Korea early Friday morning.


747-481F N401KZ departing for Tindal during the Top End monsoon.

With any long distance flight to Australia from Japan or Guam, there is the unavoidable necessity to land or carry out air to air refuelling. One way this can be achieved is by pre-positioning a tanker aircraft at the receiving end of the planned flight route. With Fridays arrival of 3 F-22 Raptors into Australian airspace and their landing at RAAF Tindal, it seemed only natural to pre-deploy a boom equiped tanker to RAAF Base Darwin.


USAF KC-135R from 117th ARS, 190 ARW Kansas Air National Guard.

Once the KC-135R Stratotanker from 117th Air Refuelling Squadron, 190th ARW, ANG Kansas, arrived early in the week, it wasn’t long before the Raptors were expected to arrive. Departing Friday morning the tanker headed north from Darwin to meet the inbound fighters at altitude. The KC-135R then returned with them to the Top End, separating from the F-22 flight just north of the coast before landing back in Darwin.


“American Muscle” 62-3572 KC-135R from 117th Air Refuelling Squadron.

No doubt the KC-135R will be used during their deployment and who knows – maybe even tagging along down to Avalon for the Australian International Air Show.


KC-135R “American Muscle” returning to Darwin after escorting the F-22 Raptors into Australia.

Although the high profile fighters, in this case the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, have much more attention paid to them by the media, there is a large amount of activity required to be carried out behind the scenes before, during and after any fighter appearance. That is where the ‘big guns” of the aviation transport sector come into play.

We certainly expect to see more logistic movements in the Top End over the coming weeks as additional troops and gear are brought in for the MRF-Darwin 2017 rotation and other operations, including passing through Darwin for the Australian International Air Show.

Cheers….Sid Mitchell

I use Nikon D7100, 50mm, 70-200mm, 200-500mm, and Sandisk cards.