Clean Hunter

CLEAN HUNTER continues to live up to its reputation as the largest and best exercise of its type in the world and provides realistic and region-wide training opportunities for the participating headquarters and forces.

Clean Hunter 2001, the annual live-flying NATO exercise, took place in Allied Command Europe's Northern Region and Northern France. The exercise took place 18-29 June 2001, with live-flying during the periods 18-22 and 25-29 June 2001. U.S. European Command supports the exercise, which is conducted by Headquarters Allied Air Forces North through its Combined Air Operations Centers. Clean Hunter involves air forces from Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. France joins the exercise as part of the normal training relations that have been established with its Allies.

Clean Hunter 2001 was designed to promote training opportunities for all participating units to maximize interaction between opposing forces and to exercise Headquarters Allied Air Forces North and its subordinate Combined Air Operations Centers in the planning and conduct of major coordinated live air operations. The exercise will involve many different types of aircraft for a wide range of operations. It plays a vital role in the maintenance of the professionalism of allied air forces. It runs concurrently with, and is linked to, other land and sea exercises, to train joint planning and operations.

There was no exercise flying during the weekends. However waivers to allow low-level flying (down to 500 feet above ground level) have been submitted by all nations. Operations will take place during daytime. Headquarters have made every effort to avoid the concentration of aircraft noise in individual locations by using large exercise areas. In general, Clean Hunter 2001 did not create much more additional flying to that of a normal flying day, with the participating nations using their normal training sorties for the exercise.

Command and control of the first Joint-Combined CSAR event for Exercise Clean Hunter 2000 [6-8 June 2000] was at NATO NATO Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) #4, located in Messtetten, Germany. Of importance are the many personnel slots within the CAOC that are not "flagged;" i.e., the responsible countries have not indicated their willingness to fill them. Also of significance is the fact that immediately after the conclusion of Clean Hunter, all USAF personnel slots were to be eliminated. This is important for several reasons. USAF personnel have unique knowledge on systems that are only in the USAF inventory, such as Sandys, Rivet Joint, etc. Moreover, USAF personnel know how to interface with USAF Commands and where to go for systems help. Also, U.S. personnel should be present whenever any U.S. military systems are employed: Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine. It is obvious from the briefing that the CAOC's are in the forefront of operational control of combat and combat support forces. Therefore, it is critical that U.S. Military personnel be in the control loop.

The Combined Rescue Coordination Center (CRCC) was set up in a large room adjacent to the CAOC Operations Center. A computer system allowed for projecting information on the front wall of the room. In this manner, all involved could readily keep track of the current actions pertaining to a Search and Rescue (SAR) or a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). This was important, as the CAOC #4 training events for Clean Hunter included both a SAR and a CSAR, which involved live, real-time actions. The SAR and CSAR Incident Reports (IR) were displayed on the wall and kept current so anyone who came into the room could, see with a quick glance, the status of the rescues. There also were several computer stations available to the CRCC Team Members. The one weak area was communications, particularly voice, which was unreliable and, for interface with Unit Operations Centers, not standard. Additionally, the only secure voice capability was in the Operations Center, which, when working, was overloaded.

The CRCC Team consisted of seven officers, four from the German Air Force, one from the Italian Air Force (IAF), one from the Netherlands Air Force, and one from the USAF. The USAF Officer was Major Bill Caldwell from the 32nd Air Operations Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany. He is a very experienced PR/CSAR individual, who brought with him several PR/CSAR forms that were not held by the CAOC, and were put immediately to use. The CRCC Team Leader was a GAF Captain who was assigned to the CAOC. He was also responsible for close air support (CAS) activities in the Operations Center, so his time was split between the two tasks. The other three GAF Officers all had PR/CSAR experience with one having served a TDY tour at the Balkans CAOC at Vicenza, Italy. The Italian officer was a rated helicopter pilot. He proved to be a significant help in the CSAR rescue operation since an Italian Helicopter was employed during the operation, among others. Of great use was a Sandy-qualified A-10 pilot from the 81st Fighter Squadron, and an F-16 pilot from Spangdhalem AB, Germany. Both of these officers were TDY to the CAOC from their parent units. The Sandys and F-16s participating in the SAR and CSAR events were from their units. These officers were key to setting up the actual rescue Composite Air Operation (COMAO).

There were two rescue events, one SAR and one CSAR, controlled by CAOC #4. The SAR was the first to occur and involved a GAF F-4 that was down in friendly, but uninhabited area requiring a rescue team. In this case, Special Forces were employed to rescue the two crew members, one of whom was injured. The second event was a GAF Tornado down in enemy territory. There was difficulty establishing initial communications and this persisted for quite some time. In both events, the CRCC Team responded in a professional manner and worked well as a team. They also consulted with various expert members in the Operations Center, which was particularly important with respect to the employment of the Sandys, the USAF F-16s, and the different types of helicopters used in the COMAO. The SAR event was well planned and, after detailed deliberations, it was decided that Special Forces would go in to rescue the downed F-4 crew. This was done without any problems, and in a timely manner. Throughout the event, all actions were carefully and calmly considered, which for a new, relatively inexperienced team, was commendable.

The CSAR event was much more demanding than the SAR event and really tested the CRCC Team and supporting personnel from the Operations Center. However, throughout the exercise, all CRCC Team members and Operations Center experts moved with deliberate speed and attempted to consider all of the factors involved. Communication with the downed Tornado pilots was, at first, non-existent and, throughout the event, was spotty and unreliable. Because of this, consideration was given to using a reconnaissance aircraft to take photos and other products to authenticate reporting. The idea was abandoned because authentication was finally obtained via voice communications. In addition to the experts from the Operations Center, the CRCC Team worked closely with the Intelligence Team, who gave them periodic updates on the enemy order of battle in the area of the downed aircrew. Working closely with the Sandy, F-16, and helicopter crews, the CRCC Team put together an effective and realistic COMAO. It consisted of four USAF F-16CJs conducting RESCAP and SEAD; two GAF ECR TORNADOs performing SEAD; four USAF A-10s conducting RESCORT and Airborne FAC; two USAF F-16CGs performing CAS; a NATO AEW E-3 acting as the Airborne Mission Coordinator (AMC); and three recovery helicopters: a NAF CH-47, an IAF HH-3F, and a GAF UH-1D.

The actual mission was accomplished effectively with the Sandys flying to the helicopter air base for face-to-face briefings. This ensured the needed CONOPS coordination was done, in light of the fact that the use of Sandys in a COMAO was new to the pilots and crews of the helicopters.

It should be noted that the AEW E-3 was an "Airborne Mission Coordinator," and not a "Commander." There was alot of discussion about the difference between a "Coordinator" and a "Commander." This difference needs to be standardized in the future as to whom or what system is to be the "Airborne Mission Commander" versus the "Airborne Mission Coordinator." From the CAOC Deputy Commander down, there was a positive consensus that more CSAR/SAR exercises must take place, and with greater frequency. This was a valuable experience for all involved personnel, and all personnel demonstrated dedication and professionalism in their assigned duties.

Command and control of the second of two Joint-Combined CSAR events for Exercise Clean Hunter 2000 [13-14 June 2000] was conducted at NATO Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) #1, located in Karup, Denmark. The CRCC was the Blue Cell for which the exercise event was intended for training. Additionally, there was a Danish Special Forces LNO, two Danish Intelligence Specialists, and a USAF Major from the 32nd Air Operations Squadron (AOS) at Ramstein Air Base, a USAF rescue helicopter pilot.

NATO CAOC #1 is permanently manned with approximately 70 personnel. While all NATO Nations are responsible for manning, the vast majority of the personnel assigned are from Denmark, with Britain and Germany providing significant numbers. No U.S. personnel were permanently assigned to CAOC #1. Augmentation for Clean Hunter 2000 was approximately ten personnel, four of whom were U.S. personnel. The CRCC consumed most of the augmentees, since it was the only CAOC cell that did not have a permanently-assigned standing cadre.

The exercise was an integrated command post exercise (CPX) and field training exercise (FTX) that incorporated the actual decision makers, live recovery forces, and actual "survivors" in the field that had to be recovered. The scenario began with a German Tornado going down and two aircrew men ejecting over water in the Baltic several hundred yards off the coast. The survivors had to make it to shore, where they had to evade live OPFOR search parties, survive, and make contact with friendly forces to effect their recovery. Each morning, over the course of the planning and execution of the recovery, mission status was briefed. During the CAOC morning briefs, it was made clear by the CAOC leadership that until the CSAR training event was successfully concluded, it was going to be the main emphasis of the "war" being fought from the CAOC.

The recovery force consisted of a Royal Danish Navy submarine and Royal Danish Army Special Forces (frogmen). Airborne command and control was executed by German tactical reconnaissance aircraft and British maritime patrol aircraft serving as communications relays. Even before the recovery mission was launched, the CRCC staff was challenged by multiple languages, a communications architecture built of components from many countries, the harsh weather of the North Sea, and other difficulties common to Joint and Combined operations. The flow of intelligence on enemy capabilities and intent to the CRCC was limited. The intelligence specialists acknowledged the problem and attributed it to the lack of exercise intelligence "inputs" to the scenario, and limitations on the releasability of classified information from the National Intelligence Centers (NICs) of the various countries participating. They said, "Every country has a problem with releasability to other countries, but the U.S. has the worst restrictions in NATO." They cited the alliance of SCANIC countries (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) as a better example of close cooperation and releasability among allies.

The German Air Force squadron that "lost" the Tornado and the two downed airmen sent their EPA and ISOPREPs to the CRCC electronically via a German C4I system called 'EIFEL.' EIFEL reports could only come into the CAOC on special, dedicated machines, limiting their interoperability. The Germans use the first page of the U.S. ISOPREP format that contains text only. The system is quite fast (Germany to Denmark in about 12 minutes) and the resolution quality of the products is very high. The Germans use block 19 of the ISOPREP to provide the Phoenix IR flasher code to be used by the isolated person.

The frogmen were delivered to the submarine via Danish SAR helicopter, and in turn, the submarine delivered them to the shootdown location. The frogmen egressed the submerged submarine, went ashore, established radio contact with the survivors, linked up with them, took them by raft out to the submarine, and boarded, all under cover of darkness. During the boarding process, one of the survivors was "injured" and his condition deteriorated through the night, as the submarine evaded enemy surface ships. The next day, the survivor had deteriorated to the point that he required immediate evacuation to a hospital, but the submarine was still in enemy waters. A CSARTF was launched to escort a SAR helicopter in to recover the survivors and MEDEVAC them. The CSAR Task Force (CSARTF) was opposed by a naval surface-to-air threat as well as an air threat composed of MiG-29s from the German Air Force.

Because the scenario involved quasi-unconventional warfare personnel recovery methods (submarine insertion and extraction, and ground team link-up), and employed forces not dedicated to CSAR, there was no written NATO doctrine or tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) available to the CRCC staff. The CRCC staff was forced spent a lot of time engaged in brainstorming and "what-if" discussion. The event played out over 60 hours, a very long time for injured aircrew to effectively survive and evade a determined enemy. The "start from zero" plan, however, provided a steep learning curve for all involved. The integrated CPX/FTX nature of the exercise provided some classic lessons learned. For example, the air mission commander (AMC) aboard the NATO AEW aircraft mistakenly injected an erroneous survivor location into the mission, possibly because of a transcription or SARNEG conversion error. This event provided an excellent learning tool for the participants. The exercise uncovered interoperability problems, as well. For example, images German Air Force RECCE aircraft took could not be transmitted to the NATO CAOC or to the Danish Special Forces tasked to perform the recovery. This example is proof that exercises are suitable means to reveal interoperability problems.

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