(Tyndall AFB, Fla., April 27, 2009) -- More than 500 Air Force personnel along with Army, Navy and Marine representatives completed a two-week training exercise April 24 here to improve how to monitor and intercept hostile military aircraft and to respond to potential terrorist attacks.
Part of a series of military defense training exercises referred to as Blue Flag, the event was held at the 601st Air and Space Operations Center at Continental U.S. NORAD Region-1st Air Force headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base.
Also participating in the exercise were members from 1st Air Force, Eastern and Western Air Defense Sectors located respectively in Rome, N.Y., and McChord AFB, Wash. The joint exercise was evaluated by the 505th Combat and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., who served as the White Cell -- the exercise proctors acting as 1st Air Force's simulated higher headquarters.
Dennis Moses, lead planner for Blue Flag, said the exercise was conducted to help 1st Air Force staff better perform its Air Defense Mission Contingency Plan, an official strategy that has been devised for various hostile air and ground situations that would require intervention by the Air Force.
"1st Air Force was involved in a similar exercise two years ago in conjunction with the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado, but this is the first time we've conducted a Blue Flag exercise solely on our own," Mr. Moses said.
For the purposes of the exercise, two simulated scenarios were designed, one in which potentially hostile military aircraft were spotted flying along the East and West coasts of the U.S., and another in which terrorist groups planned to attack a high-level international summit in California.
The scenarios were based on real-world situations that have occurred in the U.S. in the past or that are possible in the future. In one, Air Force fighters -- F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons -- were used to monitor and intercept military aircraft flying along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
He explained that in deciding what scenarios to use, Russian planes flying along the U.S. coasts actually occurred frequently during the Cold War, and there has been a resurgence of that activity in recent years.
"Our job is to make sure that aircraft entering the U.S. air defense identification zone, which is 200 miles from shore, are appropriately identified and monitored," Mr. Moses said. "This exercise was our first significant opportunity in the last five or six years to practice these particular scenarios. We've learned already that the 505th is going to take what it learned from in the exercise to make changes to its core curriculum at the Air Operations Center Field Training Unit course they teach. That is testament to the high level of experience that resides within 1st Air Force personnel."
The training exercise brought together 1st Air Force with the Navy Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing from New Orleans and Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"It was especially good for 1st Air Force and the other services to integrate our training to see how we would interact in these situations," Mr. Moses said. "We received positive feedback from everyone involved and felt we met our overall objectives."
Canadian Brig. Gen. Andre Viens, the CONR deputy commander, said the exercise
provided an excellent joint training opportunity.
"Blue Flag allows us to work together with several agencies in a training environment to focus on aerospace and maritime warning and control in order to maintain air sovereignty of the skies over North America against any air threat or potential adversary," General Viens said. "The exercise is designed to train the participants to work through an integrated air campaign and react to hostile real-time events in a dynamic environment."
In addition to having members of the 505th Combat and Control Wing act as higher headquarters personnel, CONR invited three retired general officers to serve as mentors throughout the exercise. For Blue Flag, Lt. Gen. Robert D. "Rod" Bishop Jr., Lt. Gen. Eugene D. Santarelli and Lt. Gen. Glen W. "Wally" Moorhead III volunteered their time and skills to the CONR event.
Commenting on the participation of the three retired officers, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Lofgren, the 1st Air Force vice commander, said the insight and experience our senior mentors bring to this exercise are invaluable.
"Their role as advisors bring a wealth of perspective and help us achieve a greater understanding of the exercise scenario," he said. "To some exercise participants, it may seem that they are quietly sitting on the sidelines, when in fact often times they may be leading our Airmen in the right direction by saying, 'You might want to choose a different course of action.' We're fortunate to have these seasoned warriors supporting our mission and giving their feedback."
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