March 15, 2018

Joint Airfield Assault Demonstration

A high-impact Joint Airfield Assault Demonstration will highlight the awesome capabilities of aircraft stationed at Luke Air Force Base and major weapons systems that our armed forces can bring to bear.

The ground here at Luke AFB has just turned into an enemy airfield, and the aircraft and troops you see today have been tasked to seize it.

Enemy forces are volunteers from Luke AFB, consisting of Marines and vehicles from the 6th Engineer Support Battalion.

One component of training at Luke is support of coalition forces and support of operations on the ground.  F-16 and F-35 pilots are trained to provide armed over-watch, reconnaissance, or close-air support for protection of friendly forces. CAS is military aircraft in an attack against enemy ground forces that are in close proximity to friendly forces and requires detailed coordination with ground troops.  F-16s and F-35s can also provide a show-of-force to disperse enemy personnel and, if called upon, they are prepared to employ a variety of munitions on opposing forces.  Today you will get to see many of these skillsets, as well as the preparation of the battlefield with pre-planned strikes against air defenses and other high value targets. 

Preplanned attacks

F-35s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron and F-16s from the 310th FS here at Luke set up first run attacks on the airfield. 

The F-35s took out critical air defense components and surface to air missile systems, while the F-16s struck a command post and the enemy electrical power generation facility.  They dispensed flares to defeat any potential infrared missiles, commonly known as heat seekers, shot at them.  Afterward, they reset to an attack formation overhead, known as “the wheel.” 

CAS attacks

Close-air support is demonstrated under the control of a Forward Air Controller Airborne.  The FAC-A maintains the same responsibilities as a controller on the ground, but executes his mission while flying overhead.  The forward air controller in the cockpit is able to manage the airspace and control multiple simultaneous attacks from various aircraft supporting personnel on the ground. In order to avoid enemy radars, surface to air missiles, and anti-aircraft artillery, the fighters will often conduct a low altitude ingress to maintain the element of surprise. 

Special Forces insertion

Special Forces teams are carried into battle by two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Corps Air Station Mirimar’s Helicopter Squadron 465.  One aircraft will set down and two tactical vehicles will be driven off, while the other conducts a fast rope insertion of members of Cannon AFB, New Mexico’s special operation security forces squadron. 

As friendly forces become vulnerable to enemy attack, F-35s and F-16s circle overhead and attack whenever there is a threat.  As part of this initial Special Forces party, one of the team is also a joint terminal attack controller and will take responsibility to ensure battle-space deconfliction.

As part of the Special Forces package, one HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter from the 305th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB circles using 50-caliber weapons to take out ground elements who come close to the CH-53E and retrieve injured U.S. forces.

As helicopters leave the area, the ground fight heats up and follow-on forces are brought in.  An MC-130J from Kirtland AFB, New Mexico transports 15 paratroopers and equipment into the area. Members of the14th Air support Operations Group, Pope AFB, North Carolina, parachute from the back of the aircraft at 1,000 feet above ground level and land on the drop zone while the fight continues.  The jumpers represent a much larger troop insertion that would eventually take place in airfield seizures. 

As the fight wraps up on the ground F-16 and F-35 fighters execute a show of force to remind the enemy of the airpower, firepower and death that can quickly be brought to bear on the battlefield. 


• Today’s demo will be extremely loud. Hearing protection is strongly advised, especially for younger spectators. 

• Small arms fire, pyrotechnics and other related sound effects are part of the demo.  These have the potential to trigger stress-related injuries such as PTSD.  Please plan accordingly and proceed to the medical tent if assistance is required.

Courtesy of 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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