PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA –
Airmen from three U.S. Air Forces Central wings joined joint and regional partners for Desert Mirage III --- the third iteration of a bilateral event designed to enhance the interoperability and air defense capabilities between partner nation forces – at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia May 18-19.
In addition to members from AFCENT’s 378th Air Expeditionary Wing, 332nd AEW and 380th AEW, the training event also included U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army and Royal Saudi Air Force personnel conducting scenarios that ranged from the runway to the skies, testing capabilities and coordinating the command and control aspects necessary for base and region defense.
“We have a committed partnership with the Royal Saudi Air Force here at PSAB, and we coordinate often to develop options that strengthen and reinforce our defenses against emergent and credible threats,” said Brig. Gen. Evan Pettus, 378th AEW commander. “Integrated events like Desert Mirage are the fruition of this partnership and enable us to verify and improve those defensive capabilities.”
In the air, U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons deployed to the 378th AEW trained with F-15E Strike Eagles from the 332nd AEW, KC-10 Extender tanker aircraft and E-3 Sentry command and control aircraft from the 380th AEW, as well as RSAF’s 7th Flying Wing F-15 aircraft and U.S. Marine F/A-18D Hornets deployed to PSAB from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. They also coordinated with assets and personnel from the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment ground forces.
The event was the first Desert Mirage iteration to include the Hornets, which deployed to PSAB recently as part of a Dynamic Force Employment to enhance U.S. Central Command’s ability to deter aggression and promote security and stability within the region. The addition of the Hornets introduced a new joint element and increased the effectiveness of the overall training. The live-fly event enabled each force to practice their unique tactics, techniques and procedures, and achieve combined success, according to planners in PSAB’s 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
“The training is vital to our ability to execute air defense procedures, ensuring communication and synchronization with our joint and partner counterparts,” said Lt. Col. Shaun Bowes, 157th EFS “Swamp Fox” commander, whose unit’s F-16 Fighting Falcons provided part of the fighter element for the training.
“While our tactics and techniques are similar to our partner forces, each unit brings unique elements that enhance our ability to execute the mission,” Bowes said. “Desert Mirage gave us the opportunity to rehearse those in a training environment and make sure we’re ready to achieve success if required to execute the mission in real-world conditions.”
While aircrews worked together above, personnel on the ground trained on crucial integration steps as well.
“Members of the 378th Operations Support Squadron work with our RSAF counterparts on a daily basis and Desert Mirage simply showcased that integration,” said Lt. Col. David Habben, 378th OSS commander. “We manage the airfield, develop weather products, and provide air traffic control services all while working side-by-side with our host nation in an effort to conduct bilateral operations.”
“This event added Marines as key players, which gave our team a unique opportunity to work in a truly joint-international environment. It was fantastic to see the integration of the three groups on the flightline and their support members from across the entire base,” Habben said.
Beyond the flightline, personnel worked in conjunction with U.S. Army ADA Ground Control Interceptors to neutralize simulated inbound air threats such as unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.
Additionally, each nation’s forces took turns acting as the aggressors and defenders, allowing both to reinforce their integrated air defense capabilities.
Desert Mirage III is one of several events the 378th AEW conducts with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to bolster PSAB’s mission of sustaining and defending its joint forces, while projecting combat airpower in support of theater plans and operations.
“I am happy to see how well all of the Airmen, Marines, Soldiers, and Royal Saudi Air Force personnel operated together,” Pettus said. “This week’s exercise speaks to the strength of our bond and showcases our shared ability to meet the demands of the region.”