The 310th Fighter Squadron is hosting the Cactus Starfighter 12-1 close air support exercise Monday through May 4 at the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
Along with Air Force there will be service members from the Army and Marines participating as well.
â€œTwo of the units participating are from Camp Murray, Wash., with air support operations center from the 111th Air Support Operations Squadron along with joint terminal attack controllers from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron,â€ said Maj. Douglas Charters, 310th FS instructor pilot. â€œWe will also work with JTACs from the 7th Air Support Operations Squadron from Ft. Bliss, Texas.Â This year we also have a Marine Corps exchange pilot who will provide an additional perspective on Marine Air Ground Task Force integration.â€
The exercise will put units in situations where they will need to work together not only with joint service but with different aircraft within the Air Force.
â€œThere will be myriad aircraft including F-16s from the 310th and 425th fighter squadrons and F-16s from the 182nd Fighter Squadron with the Texas Air National Guard from Kelly Field as well as A-10s and HH-60s from Davis Monthan,â€ Charters said.
There are two main goals of the exercise â€” first for the student pilots to learn close air support and second to help team members better understand capabilities and equipment.
â€œCactus Starfighter has two principle thrusts,â€ Charters said. â€œThe first aspect is the student syllabus that the 310th will support, particularly the B-course and air strike control course. We are accomplishing this by providing an infrastructure of digitally-aided close air support.Â The second goal is to enable units to use technologies, tactics, and procedures that are more difficult to simulate when units conduct training separately.â€
This is the second time the Cactus Starfighter exercise has been held, and for most pilots, involvement from JTACs is only simulated.
â€œWe normally simulate assets such as the ASOC, JTACs and additional fighters,â€ Charters said. â€œThis exercise is the real thing and not a simulation. This is the second year that we have held this type of exercise, and one of the few times we have actually trained in the states with cutting-edge digitally-aided close-air support technology.â€
Because of the complexity of the exercise the 56th Range Management Office at Luke has been a key player.
â€œWe have been given excellent areas throughout the range to simulate many different types of situations,â€ said Maj. Jason Ladd, 310th FS instructor pilot. â€œWe will have pararescue fast-rope onto a hill to get a downed pilot, while A-10s provide CAS or any combination of things.â€
The overall goal of the exercise is to bring units and people who donâ€™t normally get to train with each other into an environment that allows them to.
â€œThis exercise serves one vital purpose,â€ Charters said. â€œWe want to have the ability to train the way we fight.â€