Tuesday, December 03, 2013

US Air Force participates in first Israeli Blue Flag exercise

A group of F-15E Strike Eagles taxi following a combat mission during the Blue Flag exercise on Uvda Air Force Base, Israel, Nov. 26, 2013. Aircraft from the 492nd Fighter Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, deployed to participate in the exercise, which promoted improved operational capability, combat effectiveness, understanding and cooperation between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Italy. The unit engaged multiple heavy air defense assets, ground base targets and simulated opposition forces to meet combined operations requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lee Osberry/Released)
by Senior Master Sgt. Dwayne Gordon,  48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

UVDA AIR FORCE BASE, Israel  -- The U.S. Air Force participated in the first Israeli Blue Flag exercise at Uvda Air Force Base, Israel, Nov. 24-28.

Blue Flag is the largest multinational aerial warfare training exercise hosted by the Israeli Air Force. The exercise included forces from the U.S., Israel, Italy, and Greece. Its objectives were to improve operational capabilities and combat effectiveness of the participating nations, and to foster combined relations, cultural understanding, and combat experience.

"It was an outstanding experience for the more than 170-person U.S. Air Force team," said Lt Col John Orchard, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and U.S. Air Force Blue Flag commander. "The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other, and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios. It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives."

The exercise allowed for the partnering nations to integrate their tactical capabilities to complete a specific mission. It also further strengthened the relationship and military partnership.

"This was a very good opportunity for the participating nations to work on efficiencies, to practice becoming more logistically sound, and how to get our forces from point A, to point B," said Capt. Matthew Kuta, 492nd FS pilot, RAF Lakenheath. "It also provided us training on how to actually operate together to continue to provide stability to the area."

The U.S. Air Force deployed aircraft and support personnel from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and a Combat Communications team from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The aircraft were F-15Es from the 492nd Fighter Squadron.

Prior to the start of the exercise, the visiting nations had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the airspace and flying procedures. The training week offered four days of flying and preparation.

"Blue Flag week one was dedicated as training and warm-up towards the actual exercise that took place during week two," said Kuta. The airspace, mission duration, and some of the procedures were a little different to us. After the training week, we were ready to go."

During the exercise, a realistic war scenario was created which employed a friendly, multinational force (Blue Force) against an enemy aggressor force (Red Force). A simulated threat environment was created which caused for the partnering forces to use careful integration and critical analysis to engage the enemy and survive. The exercise included air-to-air and air-to-surface simulated missions.

The Red Force invaded friendly airspace simulating opposing air forces tactics, attempting to engage specific targets and all approaching aircraft. Their actions caused for the Blue Force to take action and attempt to eliminate the threat. The combined force merged their tactics, techniques, and procedures to form a dominate team that effectively terminated attacks by the adversary Red Forces.

Although these partnering air forces have trained separately together before, this was the first opportunity for the Israeli Air Force to conduct a multinational exercise of this magnitude in their country.

"We successfully completed the biggest multinational exercise in Israel's history," said a senior Israeli Air Force source.

"The exercise required many preparations by air and ground crews, long before the partnering air forces landed in Israel. This has helped Israel improve its general air defense capabilities while learning together and cooperating with global allies," the source said.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, visited the exercise location along with a delegation of observers from different countries. The observers were able to witness some of the action to determine if their country would be interested in participating in future Blue Flag exercises. Israel plans to conduct the exercise every two years.

"Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood," said Shapiro. "We need the best equipped, best trained forces as possible to protect our people and our security. We also need allies and we have great allies here, all training together and reinforcing a partnership that gets stronger with each passing year."

The U.S. armed forces routinely participate in training exercises with NATO and other partner nations to improve interoperability and preparedness. However, this exercise offered a unique experience for the U.S. Air Force to train in unfamiliar airspace, with great partners.