Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Airmen provide key support to multinational exercise

by Tech. Sgt. Denise Johnson, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

E-3B Sentry airborne warning and control system surveillance technicians from the 965th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron track simulated hostile aircraft during a multinational exercise Nov. 9 over Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- A multitude of international aircraft and airmen converged in Southwest Asia through the month of November to participate in an exercise geared toward honing aerial operations while improving relations and interoperability.

Officials from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing here balanced real-world operations while supporting the multinational exercise.

"Participating in this exercise enhances our effectiveness downrange. When the opportunity arises for us to improve our own skills and develop our ability to integrate in combined operations, we take advantage of that training," said Brig. Gen. H. D. Polumbo Jr., the 380th AEW commander.

Airmen of the 380th AEW provided air battle management via its E-3B Sentry air warning and control system as well as air-to-air refueling from its KC-10 Extenders for fighter jets from the U.S., France, England, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Some countries, such as Egypt, sent observers to the exercise.

One objective for the exercise included seeking and identifying a simulated enemy frigate escorting a ship carrying military supplies to a notional adversary Nov. 12. The E-3 crew, from the 965th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron here, managed the airspace and tracked the movement of both friendly and hostile aircraft in the area.

Once the frigate was found and identified, fighter jets were called in to simulate a show of force. Identifying friendlies and hostiles is a life-and-death profession the E-3 crew is fully qualified to handle.

"We can determine whether an aircraft is friend or foe in less than 30 seconds," said Capt. Omar Hamilton, a 965th EACCS electronic warfare officer.

The scenarios, though simulated, warrant a serious undertone. The participants could face similar real-world situations at any time.

The air battle managers watched aircraft movement and monitored communications while the 908th Expeditionary Refueling Squadron's KC-10 crew refueled four fighters before they joined "the fight."

A variety of accents and flying experience provided some minor challenges, but every pilot avoided the designated surface-to-air missile range marked by a circle on the radar screen.

"This site has been identified as a SAM site," Captain Hamilton said. "If the aircraft enter this circle on the screen, they are within range of simulated missiles."

The pilots vary in background and nationality, but in the sky they are on a level playing field, said Maj. Shawn Williams, an F-15 Strike Eagle pilot from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. "A fighter pilot is a fighter pilot, regardless of country. In an exercise like this, we find we all have the same fundamental desires and wants: peace, love and family -- and the means to protect them."

"We're here to support operations in theater," General Polumbo said. "We do that very well, every day. We are; however, willing to support key training exercises to enable the (U.S. Air Force) and our key allies to hone their warfighting skills."

Capt. Rick Jones looks to Staff Sgt. Mike Membrilla for directions to safely maneuver his F-15 Eagle onto the runway Nov. 13 at an air base in Southwest Asia. Captain Jones and Sergeant Membrilla are members of the 58th Fighter Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. They are deployed here in support of a multinational exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Christopher A. Campbell)