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Air Force participates in joint homeland defense exercise

by Mary McHale
AFNORTH Public Affairs

11/14/2011 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- A variety of military and federal organizations participated in a first-of-its-kind homeland defense event Nov. 7 as part of the Joint-Deployable Integrated Air and Missile Defense field training exercise conducted in Key West, Fla.

According to Maj. Greg Lewis, the chief of command and control, weapons and tactics, this portion of the Vigilant Shield 12 exercise was the first time live flying in defense of the homeland was integrated into a scenario involving missile defense of North America.

"The J-DIAMD concept is designed to enhance our ability to defend the homeland," said Brig. Gen. Christopher Coates, deputy commander of the exercise. "The strength of J-DIAMD is that it provides commanders with real-time information to enable decision makers to make informed decisions using the best available sensors and shooter assets to resolve threat situations."

Exercise participants included representatives from the 601st Air and Space Operations Center, 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Fleet Forces, Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Missile Defense Agency.

"There was a tremendous amount of integration from all involved," Lewis said, who added that planning for the exercise began approximately nine months ago. "That we did this successfully for the first time sets the future for where we are going to go in integrating air and missile defense."

Navy Capt. Ron Page, the test director for the J-DIAMDS FTX, echoed that sentiment.

"This exercise helps every military branch involved in synchronization efforts," Page said. "It is how things will be done in the next generation."

NORTHCOM's Vigilant Shield 12 exercise launched Nov. 1 and continued through Nov. 10, combining field and command post exercises to train NORTHCOM and North American Aerospace Defense Command staffs in homeland defense and homeland security processes, Lt. Alain Blondin of the Canadian navy, a command spokesman, told American Forces Press Service.

"The scenario for the exercise is based on potential military threats to the United States and Canada that require extensive military planning to provide a range of military options to our national leadership," said Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., Northcom and NORAD commander, in a blog announcing the exercise.

Northcom's operations center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., working in coordination with a joint deployable integrated air and missile defense system and elements of a logistics support facility dispatched to Naval Air Station Key West, are testing their capabilities against simulated enemy attacks, Blondin said.

Although most of the scenarios are classified, Blondin said, they involved "the full spectrum of threats," including simulated terrorist attacks.

To increase the realism of the scenarios and test the ability of federal, state and international partners to provide a synchronized response to homeland threats, Vigilant Shield planners have piggybacked on other training exercises.

For example, routine training flights under way across the Washington, D.C., region tested NORTHCOM's and NORAD's ability to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Aviation Administration, among other federal agencies.

This year's Vigilant Shield was linked to two other concurrent exercises: Vigilant Guard Arizona and Determined Dragon. Vigilant Guard Arizona, a joint regional exercise sponsored by NORTHCOM and the National Guard Bureau, is designed to improve military processes, procedures and coordination with state and local responders, officials said. Canada Command conducted Determined Dragon to test the readiness of Canadian forces at the national level.

(Donna Miles of American Forces Press Service contributed to this article.)

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