NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND (or Naval Base Coronado), Calif. — The 563d Rescue Group deployed 153 personnel and five HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters to Naval Air Station North Island Nov. 1-15, to participate in Commander, U.S. Third Fleet’s Joint Task Force Exercise, the final pre-deployment certification for the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group.
“Air-Sea Battle (ASB) Concept is the Air Force and Navy’s joint method of countering an enemy’s anti-access and area-denial challenges through networked, integrated forces operating across all domains,” said Col. Jason Hanover, the 563d Rescue Group Commander and exercise Personnel Recovery Task Force Commander. “This exercise provided an opportunity to work with the Navy to pioneer how to most effectively execute Personnel Recovery operations under the umbrella of ASB operations.”
To accomplish its goals and objectives, the 563d Rescue Group brought its ROC, or Rescue Operations Center, a self-contained, expeditionary command and control node to ensure enhanced situational awareness and fluid communications across the area of operations. “ASB and all operations under the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) hinge on cross-domain synergy and the ROC is the method that Air Force Rescue employs to ensure that synergy is transferred to and from Personnel Recovery forces,” explained Col. Hanover.
“Powered by generators operating off the same fuel as our aircraft, our ROC can provide Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) capabilities comparable to operating back home at Davis-Monthan, anywhere in the world,” said ROC Superintendent, Master Sgt. Linwood Stull.
As C4I Team Lead, Capt. Matt Kahley explained, “In addition to structural support, the communications capabilities are outstanding, highlighted by the RFACS (Rescue Forces Austere Communications Service) that can provide satellite internet anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes.”
The ROC was deployed to the location onboard a new HC-130J Combat King II from the 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron, the first aircraft of its kind to arrive at any Air Force base.
Integrating Navy and Air Force capabilities involves thorough coordination and understanding of what each service brings to the fight. To understand their sister service, the 563d Rescue Group spent the first day in academic sessions led by their Navy counterparts.
“The Rescue Group had the opportunity to learn Navy Carrier Strike Group integration, Air-Sea Battle operations, and maritime rescue tactics, techniques, and procedures,” said Capt. Scott Rein, the 563d Rescue Group Chief of Weapons and Tactics. “These tactical academics provide the foundation for Air Force and Navy integration in Personnel Recovery.”
To prepare for the joint operations, Guardian Angels from the 48th and 58th Rescue Squadrons conducted an airdrop from the new HC-130J into the Pacific Ocean, recovered six isolated personnel, and were exfiltrated by the 55th and 66th Rescue Squadrons and their HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters.
“The fact that we have the versatility as a triad (HC-130, HH-60, and Guardian Angel) to flex to meet the needs of a mission, whether over the desert or open ocean, is what is special about Air Force Rescue,” said Lt. Col. Robert Remey, 55th Rescue Squadron commander.
The integrated operations with the Navy included multiple scenarios including a simulated attack on the carrier strike group and the recovery of personnel.
“A unique training capability we saw included recovering survivors and evacuating them to a carrier,” said Capt. Brian Slade, exercise ROC Operations (A3) from the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis AFB.
The 55th and 66th Rescue Squadrons also conducted their first-ever, maritime-gunnery exercise to validate new tactics, techniques, and procedures for opposed, overwater recovery of survivors.
“This was an exceptional opportunity to engage dynamic maritime targets, allowing our crews to train for realistic contingencies in a contested overwater recovery of isolated personnel,” said Capt Rein.
The most important aspect of this exercise was the collection of lessons learned for future integration within the Air-Sea Battle Concept for Personnel Recovery and command and control.
“I was proud of what our guys accomplished out there,” said Col. Hanover. “The tactics, techniques, and procedures for Joint Personnel Recovery operations with the Navy within the Air Sea Battle Concept will be invaluable as our community prepares for future operations.”