20 May 21. First contractor-owned F-16s cleared to begin Aggressor training. The first privately owned Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft have been cleared to provide ‘Red Air’ Aggressor training.
Top Aces Corporation announced on 19 May that the surplus F-16s it recently received from Israel have now been certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Top Aces took delivery of its first four F-16s in January, becoming the first private company in the world to own and operate a fourth-generation fighter aircraft,” the Canadian-based contractor said. “Top Aces’ highly skilled in-house maintenance team then returned the aircraft to full operational and airworthy status at its F-16 Center of Excellence in Mesa, Arizona. This week marks a historic achievement as Top Aces’ first F-16 obtained FAA certification and successfully performed its initial test flight.”
Top Aces received the first of 29 F-16A/B ‘Netz’ jets in January, noting that the aircraft will be flown out of the company’s Mesa base in support of US Department of Defense (DoD) adversary air training.
“A fundamental step in preparing Top Aces’ F-16 fleet to serve the US Air Force (USAF) is the integration of Top Aces’ open architecture Advanced Aggressor Mission System (AAMS), which will provide the most advanced adversary capability in the industry,” the company said. “This proprietary system features the latest technologies including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, infrared search-and-track (IRST), advanced data link, and helmet-mounted cueing systems.”
19 May 21. US F-35s, French Rafales fly joint exercises. Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and Dassault Rafale jets have begun flying joint exercises geared at enhancing fourth- and fifth-generation interoperability between the United States and France.
Exercise ‘Atlantic Trident 21’, which will also feature F-35B aircraft from the United Kingdom, is being conducted out of Mont-de-Marsan Air Force Base from 17 to 28 May.
“The [first joint] flight was a part of the ‘Atlantic Trident 21’ exercise which is a joint, multinational exercise involving service members from the US, France and the UK, and is aimed at enhancing fourth and fifth generation integration, combat readiness and fighting capabilities, through conducting complex air operations in a contested multinational joint force environment,” the USAF said.
News of the first joint US-French sortie came days after four US Air Force F-35As arrived at Marsan Air Base in southern France on 10 May for training and regional reassurance operations. The USAF F-35As are from the 4th Fighter Squadron (an amalgamation of personnel from the active 388th Fighter Wing [FW] and the reserve 419th FW) normally stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the French Air and Space Force Rafales are from 1/4 Gascogne Fighter Squadron, 113 Saint-Dizier-Robinson Air Base, while the Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35Bs will be from 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron at RAF Marham. (Source: Jane’s)
19 May 21. USAF held first information warfare test exercises. The U.S. Air Force conducted its first information warfare-focused exercises to test the concept at a new range in the New Mexico desert.
To date, Air Combat Command led 10 “proof of concept” exercises, Jeffrey Phillips, commander of the 67th Cyberspace Wing, said May 18 during an AFCEA Alamo Chapter online event.
These information warfare flags followed the theme of “convergence,” a key concept championed by Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, commander of 16th Air Force, the service’s first information warfare numbered force that integrates global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, electronic warfare, and information operations under a single commander.
Since its minting in the fall of 2019, the organization has had to chart how to consolidate and operationalize all the capabilities to provide Air Force and joint commanders integrated information warfare packages.
“How do we organize ourselves around problems that also [don’t] constrain us by the geography? Because in many cases, that information that’s available to us will not necessarily be collocated with the adversary we’re targeting,” Haugh said last year regarding the imperative and importance of convergence. “It’s taking advantage of our global access, our global access to the data and unique authorities, whether that’s intelligence authorities or the role that we play as a cyber component or the capabilities that we now stood up from an information warfare and an [information operations] perspective. How those come together and integrate are the outcomes that we are producing and will produce with our partners.”
A top official last fall announced the intent to hold the service’s first information warfare exercise at the newly created training facility in Playas, New Mexico, that would involve “live fire and live fly.”
The facility will help the Air Force refine information warfare tactics, such as honing cyber electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum capabilities.
“There’s like 250 abandoned houses on there. We created electromagnetic footprint. We’re able to exercise our cyber airmen, our intelligence airmen, our electronic warfare airmen and bring them all together to conduct information warfare exercises,” Phillips said.
He added that under Haugh’s convergence direction, they have begun to fold in other disciplines, such as electronic warfare and intelligence, one example being greater collaboration with the 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing that specializes in targeting, which Phillips said his organization has never worked with in the past.
“They are experts in targeting. In the cyber domain, we need targets,” he said.
The Air Force also held is first information warfare weapons and tactics conference in November 2020, emulating the Combat Air Force Weapons and Tactics Conference.
An Air Combat Command spokesperson told C4SIRNET that the two-day conference helped improve training against peer threats and included over 300 attendees from several units, services and organizations, including 16th Air Force, Air Combat Command staff, United States Air Forces in Europe — Air Forces Africa, Pacific Air Forces, the Army’s 1st Information Operations Command, Army Cyber Command, RAND and Air University.
Building a new cadre of information warriors
As adversaries are looking to more actively exploit gray zone operations, or operations below the threshold of armed conflict, they’ve sought a higher profile in the information domain with influence and information operations.
The U.S. military has made competing in kind a high priority.
Within the past year, the Air Force created the first initial skills training course for its information operations personnel, 14F. This follows the 2018 move to create a technical school for the discipline.
Previously, there was a lack of initial training for this career field, Phillips said, leading to the creation of a pilot-type curriculum at the 39th Information Operations Squadron, which has proven successful thus far, with nine graduates in December. They are in the second course currently.
Eventually, this course will likely be passed to Air Education and Training Command to run across the entire service.
While the number of 14Fs is small — about 130 — Phillips said the service hopes to grow that figure to around 500 in the future.
After they complete their training, they’ll go to air operations centers to support squadrons, Phillips said, adding they are already having impact. The airmen are trained as behavioral scientists and are experts in military information support operations, military deception operations, psychological operations.
“We see to get them the right formal training so they can bring all those functions together and take them out to the field to influence operations,” Phillips said. (Source: Defense News)
18 May 21. USMC breaks ground on new war game center. US Marine Corps broke ground here on what it plans will be a state-of-the-art war gaming center, to direct war fighting experiments and pull feedback from across the fleet to continuously refine how Marines fight.
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith told the audience that the $79m center will help get resources, whether that’s equipment or new tactics, to Marines in the field quicker.
“It’s a big deal to those 19-year-olds here, to the ones down at Parris Island or at San Diego, because they do the fighting and the dying,” Smith said. “We’re going to make sure they do less of the dying part by what we do here.”
The three-star told Marine Corps Times at the event that the combination of expert analysis and advanced modeling and simulation in one place all operating at a classified level provides a more accurate starting point.
“It’s like we’re bracketing,” Smith said. “We’re not saying, ‘How far is the target?’ We’re saying that the target is somewhere between 4,000 and 4,500 yards … that’s what this center does.
Bracketing is a technique often used with indirect fires such as mortars or cannon artillery when determining the distance of a target. A shooter will fire the projectile both short of and past the target, then know the distance where the target lies ― between the two shots.
The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is planned to open in summer 2023. The site is next to the Marine Corps University where mid-career and senior office and enlisted Marines attend.
That proximity means that planners can bring in Marines who are coming from the fleet to participate in planning or experiments and to provide feedback.
The center gives planners a way to run through everything from equipment strengths and weaknesses to entire campaign plans using existing capabilities and tactics or mid- to long-term anticipating capabilities.
“An adversary has ‘X’ and I want to defeat that,” Smith said. “Let’s try this. We can do that through an artificial intelligence algorithm, with the right people here we can do that hundreds of times a minute and generate countless outcomes.”
The work could be as simple as pitting one weapon system against another, such as whether this particular fighter jet would prevail against a similar enemy jet, given the available data.
The center will directly coordinate with commanding generals at major bases such as Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; Okinawa, Japan; and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.
For example, the head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, which will call the center home, can run through experimental models and then reach out to the units to run new methods in a field environment.
Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s commander or other planners could have them run the experiment with a particular size unit at a certain range. Then, while the simulation may have worked, the on-the-ground Marines might discover details that weren’t considered or came up in the process.
That then feeds back into the next iteration.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commander, told Marine Corps Times in an email statement that as the Corps works on concept development, experiments and exercises in the fleet both the positive and negative feedback will be sent to the wargaming center.
“Young Marines will see the benefit of expanded channels for feedback,” Watson said. “In the end, this will allow the Marine Corps to iteratively learn and continuously improve our organizational and capability investment decisions, ensuring that our plans and investments don’t just look good on paper, but are underpinned by rigorous wargaming and analysis.”
Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, head of Marine Corps Systems Command, told Marine Corps Times at the event that the same is true of equipment.
“(The center) will really inform us on how we train on a large-scale exercise,” Pasagian said.
When the center was first announced by former Commandant Gen. Robert Neller in 2017, the top general painted a vivid picture of what the center could provide.
“What I’m looking for is a simulation where a battalion or squadron commander or a regimental or a group commander or a division, wing or MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] or a corps commander can go in and not have to put thousands of people on the battlespace and in the air and actually get them to do a repetition,” Neller said in 2017.
As plans proceeded and funding was sourced, the Marines sought tools for the building, asking industry for pitches on an IBM Watson-like machine or software in late 2018 that would help conduct complex wargaming that the center plans to execute.
The data such a system would provide and the variety of scenarios possible could then give Marine planners numbers that would help learn probabilities of victory, casualty expectations and logistics required for an individual mission or operation. (Source: Defense News)
18 May 21. RAAF aircraft, personnel deployed to Top End for Arnhem Thunder. An F-35A Lightning II is among a host of RAAF aircraft deployed to the Northern Territory for Exercise Arnhem Thunder.
The Royal Australian Air Force has deployed approximately 50 aircraft and more than 500 personnel to the Northern Territory as part of Exercise Arnhem Thunder 21 — one of the ADF’s largest domestic training exercises.
The exercise aims to provide force generation training, with a particular focus on high-end collective training, involving multiple Force Element Groups (FEGs).
Exercise Arnhem Thunder will be conducted from RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal from 17 May to 15 June 2021, leveraging the Mount Bundey Training Area, and Delamere Air Weapons Range.
Deployed platforms include the:
- F-35A Lightning II;
- F/A-18F Super Hornet;
- EA-18G Growler;
- F/A-18A/B Hornet;
- Hawk 127;
- C-130J Hercules;
- C-17A Globemaster;
- C-27J Spartan;
- KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport; and
- E-7A Wedgetail.
This will mark the first time an F-35A Lightning II operates out of RAAF Base Darwin.
According to Commander Air Combat Group, Air Commodore Tim Alsop, Arnhem Thunder would improve interoperability between Air Combat Group, Air Mobility Group, Surveillance and Response Group, and Combat Support Group in an offensive counter-air environment.
“Exposure to large-scale, multi-FEG scenarios in an away-base environment is of vital importance to the training outcomes of all elements across Air Force,” AIRCDRE Alsop said.
“Operating out of RAAF bases Darwin and Tindal in the Northern Territory, Exercise Arnhem Thunder provides an excellent venue for cross-FEG interoperability, high-end air power missions, as well as airbase activation in an austere environment.”
Exercise Arnhem Thunder is expected to kick-off with force integration training and large force employment scenarios, before the activation of a forward operating base by a contingency response squadron and other combat support elements.
“Collective training for missions such as this must be routinely practiced so that Air Force is ready to respond to the defence of Australia when required,” AIRCDRE Alsop added.
“We are all very excited about being in the Top End to carry out our training and I thank the local community for their support.” (Source: Defence Connect)
17 May 21. Japan, US, France hold military drill eyeing China presence. Dozens of Japanese, American and French troops landed amid pouring rain from a CH-47 transport helicopter onto a grassy field at a training area in southern Japan, part of Saturday’s joint scenario of defending a remote island from an enemy invasion.
The three nations’ first joint drills on Japanese soil — dubbed “ARC21” and which began Tuesday — come as they seek step up military ties amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
Japanese soldiers and their counterparts from the French Army and the U.S. Marine Corps also conducted an urban warfare drill using a concrete building elsewhere at the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s Kirishima Training Area in the southern Miyazaki prefecture. Around 200 troops took part in Saturday’s exercises.
On Saturday, the three countries were also joined by Australia in an expanded naval exercise involving 11 warships in the East China Sea, where tensions with China are rising around the island of Taiwan.
The drills come as Japan looks to bolster its military capabilities amid a deepening territorial row with China in regional seas. Japan is increasingly concerned about Chinese activity in and around Japanese-claimed waters surrounding the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing also claims and calls Diaoyu.
Since the end of World War II, Japan’s constitution has limited the use of force to self defense. Japan in recent years has continued to expand its military role, capability and budget.
Japan’s Vice Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama, who observed the exercise, stressed the significance of French participation in the joint exercises regularly held between Japan and the U.S., and often with Australia.
“It was a valuable opportunity for the Japanese Self-Defense Force to maintain and strengthen its strategic capability necessary to defend our remote islands,” Nakayama said. “Together we were able to show to the rest of the world our commitment in defending Japanese land, territorial seas and airspace.”
France, which has territories in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, has strategic interests in the region.
“It is obviously very important for us because we need to be side by side with people who are sharing this part of the world,” Lt. Col. Henri Marcaillou from the French Army told reporters after Saturday’s exercise.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeremy Nelson said the three countries showed they can work together “for a common goal or common cause.”
Britain, which recently adopted a policy of deeper engagement in the region, is sending the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group, due to arrive in the region later this year. Germany is also set to deploy a frigate to the region.
Japan and the U.S. have been promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific vision of defense and economic framework based on democratic principles in the area in a group known as the Quad, which also includes Australia and India, seen as a move to counter China’s escalating influence in the region. China has criticized the U.S.-Japanese framework as an exclusionist bloc based on a Cold War-era mindset. (Source: Defense News)
17 May 21. In a timely coincidence considering the story on Israel above, NATO’s biggest and most complex air and missile exercise in Europe began on Saturday 15 May, primarily off the Scottish coast and the Andova training site off Norway. it will run to Thursday 3 June.
Exercise At-Sea-Demo/Formidable Shield will encompass 15 ships and dozens of aircraft from ten NATO nations – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“Formidable Shield shows how Allies are working together to defend NATO forces and populations from the very real threat of missiles,” said NATO spokesperson Piers Cazalet. “In conflicts around the world, cruise and ballistic missiles are often the weapon of choice, both for state and non-state actors. So at a time when we see missile arsenals growing and becoming more complex, it is important that Allies continue to adapt and exercise our defences.”
The exercises will require naval vessels to ‘detect and track a missile flying at more than 20,000km/h’. A NATO statement said that other missions would require naval vessels to “defend against an array of anti-ship and other sub and supersonic missiles using NATO procedures. Allies will share common tactical pictures, conduct joint mission planning and coordinate in shooting down incoming missiles.”
Conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO on behalf of US Sixth Fleet, Formidable Shield is a live-fire integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) exercise designed to improve Allied interoperability using NATO command and control reporting structures. (Source: Armada)
10 May 21. In the early hours of Saturday 08 May a joint force from US 82nd Airborne Division and UK 16 Air Assault Brigade parachuted into Estonia, writes Bob Morrison. SWIFT RESPONSE 21 is a linked exercise of DEFENDER-Europe 21 which involves Special Operations activities, Air Assaults, and Live Fire Exercises in Estonia, Bulgaria, and Romania, demonstrating airborne interoperability among NATO allies.
After covering US and UK artillery live-firing on Exercise FIRES SHOCK and FR and UK troops mounting an inter-operability demo on Operations LYNX / CABRIT last week in the Tapa area, we relocated to Nurmsi airfield early on Saturday morning to link up with SWIFT RESPONSE 21 and be in place for the follow-on heliborne air assault mission planned for later in the day (which will be covered in a later article).
US Army Spc. Denice Lopez was not afforded the luxury of sleep overnight Friday/Saturday as she was tasked with producing the accompanying video of the drop. In addition to the fleet of C-17 aircraft (convoy callsign REACH 700, for those with access to FlightRadar) which crossed the Atlantic on Friday afternoon with airborne personnel, vehicles and equipment on board, a second wave of transport aircraft flying from Lithuania with more US Paras on board added to the Joint Forcible Entry operation.
Background: DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale US Army-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between US, NATO and partner militaries. This year’s exercise:-
- Focuses on building operational readiness and interoperability with a greater number of NATO allies and partners over a wider area of operations
- Is defensive in nature and focused on responding to crisis if necessary
- Demonstrates that the US commitment to NATO is iron clad
- Integrates approximately 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations to conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 12 countries.
- Includes strict COVID prevention and mitigation measures, such as pre-deployment COVID testing and quarantining.
- Has significant involvement of the US Air Force and US Navy.
- Utilises key ground and maritime routes bridging Europe, Asia and Africa
- Exercises new high-end capabilities such the new US Army Security Force Assistance Brigades, air and missile defence assets and the recently reactivated V Corps
- Demonstrates our ability to serve as a strategic security partner in the western Balkans and Black Sea regions while sustaining our abilities in northern Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa. (Source: joint-forces.com)
14 May 21. NATO’s VJTF quick reaction forces, led by Turkey this year, arrive in Romania to take part in a NATO exercise testing readiness and military mobility.
NATO’s quick reaction forces arrived in Romania earlier this week to take part in Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER 2021. The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is led by Turkey this year. A convoy of Turkish troops crossed the border from Bulgaria into Romania on 11 May.
STEADFAST DEFENDER 2021 is a NATO-led exercise involving over 9,000 troops from more than 20 NATO Allies and partners. The objective is to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to any threat from any direction. NATO is taking the necessary measures to protect our armed forces. This includes COVID-19 precautions, such as pre-deployment testing and quarantining. (Source: joint-forces.com)
12 May 21. DEFENDER-Europe 21. Yesterday, while Bravo Company of 1-508th PIR assaulted prepared positions 1-319th AFAR supported them with 105mm artillery live fire, reports Bob Morrison.
As the Red Devils from North Carolina waited pensively out of sight in a treeline on the east side of the Tapa Central Training Area, Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, their gunner colleagues from 82nd Airborne Division, blanketed the enemy positions to their front with a barrage of 105mm rounds from their M119 howitzers from firing points on the south-west side of the polygon (as military training areas are known in the Baltic region).
exercise at Tapa Central Training Area, 11 May 2021 [SFC Jeff VanWey]
These were some of the same guns parachuted into Nurmsi Airfield from Fort Bragg in the early hours of Saturday morning and then flown forward by CH-47 Chinook to Tapa the same evening. (Source: joint-forces.com)
14 May 21. Babcock Canada and Leonardo Canada Join Forces for Canada’s Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) Program. Babcock Canada and Leonardo Canada are pleased to announce that they have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to jointly pursue Canada’s Future Aircrew Training Program (FAcT) and to create a Canadian joint venture.
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Babcock Canada and Leonardo Canada are strongly committed to building a strong Canadian Team reinforcing their existing long-term relationships and partnerships with the Canadian Government and Canadian industries.
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InVeris Training Solutions combines an agile approach with an unmatched expertise in training technology to design and deliver customized, cutting-edge, first-rate training solutions that keep military, law enforcement, private and commercial range clients safe, prepared and ready to serve – Because Seconds Matter™. With a portfolio of technology-enabled training solutions, and a team of 400 employees driven to innovate, InVeris Training Solutions is the global leader in integrated live-fire and virtual weapons training solutions. With its legacy companies, FATS® and Caswell, InVeris Training Solutions has fielded over 15,000 live-fire ranges and 7,500 virtual systems globally during its 90-year history. The Company is headquartered in Suwanee, Georgia and partners with clients in the US and around the world from facilities on five continents.