NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — With the missions of tomorrow requiring joint forces to work together, integrated combat exercises between them are essential to ensuring U.S. forces are successful in current and future operations.
Green Flag-West 14-09 provided integrated combat scenarios with training missions requiring the Air Force to work with both the Army and the Navy.
Green Flag West exercises train participants in air-to-surface combat scenarios. The close air support and air-sea battle training is administered by the 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and the 12th Combat Training Squadron at Fort Irwin, California.
Though no one can completely predict what future wars will fully entail, participants in this Green Flag emphasized U.S. forces need to be prepared for anything.
“What we need to be able to do is flex with whatever that war is going to look like; the best way to do that is to make sure we know how to work with each other,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Brandon Roth, chief of weapons and tactics, 309th Fighter Squadron, Luke AFB, Arizona.
Part of knowing how to work together is making sure all participants understand each other’s terminology and capabilities.
“Understanding what my Navy, Army, or Marine brothers are talking about can be a challenge because the terms are different,” Roth said. “It’s funny how we do very similar things but we speak about them differently.”
One piece of Green Flag 14-09 showcased the 309th FS F-16 Fighting Falcons providing air support to Soldiers who were participating in the ground combat training portion of the exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
“We have the ability to strike targets several kilometers past the forward line of troops, places where the Army can’t necessarily reach but may need to coordinate [a strike] because friendly folks on the ground are in close proximity,” Roth said.
A vital component to any air campaign is the flow of information in the air and the management of air battle space, which is handled by the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System.
While coordinating air-to-ground attacks, the AWACS will spend a lot of time communicating with a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground.
“Aircraft will check-in with us, we’ll make sure that they’re de-conflicted. After passing adversary threats and any mission updates, we pass them off to the JTAC for final control to their targets,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Wesley Brammier, instructor, air battle manager, 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
Not only are the AWACS working with the Army and managing air assets, they’re also working closely with the Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye during Green Flag.
“[The Hawkeye’s] main roles would consist of getting a radar picture of the surface situation, identifying contacts far out from the carrier-strike group that they might not be able to see, and be able to generate situational awareness for the warfare commanders and the strike group,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Jeffrey Porwoll, assistant operations officer from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117, Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California.
The Air Force’s E-3 is learning the role of the Navy’s E-2 and how to integrate with the Navy in a joint environment.
“The E-3 is acting as the Maritime Air Controller, and they’re going to direct tactical assets to investigate or identify surface contacts that the [E-2] Hawkeye or other assets aren’t able to identify on their own,” Porwoll said.
Porwoll added, historically, it was normal for the branches to operate independently, but he stressed integrated warfare is the way of the future.
“Yes, we can operate in the middle of the ocean, but conflicts today are happening over land where you’re going to have to integrate with everyone else, so the ability to be able to do so is paramount,” Porwoll said.
No matter where or with whom tomorrow’s fight may be with, it is clear it will require all branches of the U.S. military to work flawlessly and in harmony with each other.
Green Flag helps create a smooth integration of U.S. forces within a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment and ensures when real combat arrives, communication is clear and distinct.