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Exercise readies U.S., international forces for cooperative efforts

by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/27/2011 - KONYA AIR BASE, Turkey (AFNS) -- Anatolian Eagle, a multi-national, large-force employment exercise, was held here to provide a realistic, scenario-based training environment to test combined aerial combat skills June 13 through 24.

In its 10th year, the exercise included participants from the Turkish, U.S., Saudi Arabian, Jordanian and Spanish air forces.

"Anatolian Eagle is a large-force employment exercise similar to what we do at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., during Red Flag exercises," said Lt. Col. Michael Thompson, the commander of the 510th Fighter Squadron, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. "It includes a lot of our international coalition partners and provides us an opportunity to interface with them so when it comes to real-world operations, we have a better understanding of our tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as how we would all play a role in making sure we got the job done."

As part of the exercise, each coalition partner's skill sets and assets needed to be efficiently utilized to effectively complete each scenario, officials said.

"A key objective to this is putting each coalition partner's unique capabilities in the best position to succeed," Colonel Thompson said. "You try to package an entire force together with folks who have unique capabilities. As far as dropping bombs, certain munitions are better for certain targets so you try to allocate those targets to aircraft capable of carrying the munitions capable of destroying those targets, or at least capable of achieving the acceptable level of destruction based on commander's intent."

This training brought together coalition forces to enhance collaborative efforts throughout the region, which will help in conflicts with common threats in the future.

"This gives us an opportunity to do training with our international partners the way we would like to operate in a real-world contingency," the colonel said. "The way we would prefer to employ (aircraft) is in a large-force package, bringing unique capabilities from each airframe and service to bear on meeting our goals and objectives."

This training helps each coalition partner understand how their aircraft would be used in real-world situations, officials said. The exercise also offers them a chance to see the tendencies of other nations, which builds trust and understanding crucial to future mission success.

"We brought our Block 40 F-16 (Fighting Falcons), the Saudis have the F-15s, the Jordanians have F-5s, the Turkish have the F-5s and the Spanish have F-18s here," Colonel Thompson said. "Each one of these platforms brings unique capabilities of what they're best postured to do and we package that together in seeing how they integrate their capabilities into a large force.

"It also helps to build international relationships," he said. "We spend a lot of time with our foreign-service counterparts, and by virtue of being able to reach out to them and interact with them, we're able to build camaraderie. Oftentimes, what this translates into, is next time we do a Red Flag International at Nellis (AFB), we now have already built a level of understanding that will become apparent when we perform the training at Red Flag International."

Anatolian Eagle also offered an opportunity for younger pilots to gain experience in leadership roles, such as the position of mission commander.

"We had opportunities to get some of our folks checked out for mission commander, which is the person overall in charge of the force package," Colonel Thompson said. "We've also had some of our allies be mission commander, which gives us a chance to see and learn some of the different ways we handle tactical problems.

"From this we can learn what works and what doesn't work; and the most important thing about this is every time we debrief and discuss what worked and what didn't work, and from that, everybody learns," Colonel Thompson said. "It's good to get that unique perspective because we learn just as much from our foreign counterparts as they get from us, and we are able to take things back and say, 'Hey, this is a smarter way to tackle this problem.'"

Colonel Thompson said he was happy with the exercise's end result and was pleased with the mutual understanding between and contributions of U.S. and foreign counterparts.

"I think this went very well, as with any large-force employment exercise, it's had various challenges like how many aircraft can we generate, are we able to generate all of our aircraft, and are we able to avoid bad weather," he said, "but from the perspective of learning from each other's tactics, techniques and procedures, I think we got a good understanding of what our limitations are from our Saudi, Jordanian, Spanish and Turkish allies, and they've learned a lot from us as well."

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