One of nine DoD unified combatant commands, USSTRATCOM has global strategic missions assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence; space operations; cyberspace operations; joint electronic warfare; global strike; missile defense; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; combating weapons of mass destruction; and analysis and targeting.
USSTRATCOM conducts global operations in coordination with other combatant commands, services, appropriate U.S. government agencies, and allies to deter, detect and, if necessary, defeat strategic attacks against the United States and its allies. Global Thunder, a globally integrated exercise, also involves allied personnel from a variety of nations, including permanently assigned foreign liaison officers to USSTRATCOM from Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom. Allied personnel integrate into senior leadership teams and work across a broad spectrum of areas, offering legal, public affairs and policy support; as well as, targeting and information operations insight.
Large-scale exercises, like Global Thunder, involve extensive planning and coordination to provide unique training for assigned units and our allies. USSTRATCOM has global responsibilities assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting.
Airmen from Air Force Global Strike Command, 8th Air Force, 2nd Bomb Wing and 307th Bomb Wing participated in Exercise Global Thunder 15 from Oct. 17 to 28, 2014. Exercise Global Thunder 15 is U.S. Strategic Command's annual field training and battle staff exercise, designed to exercise all mission areas with primary emphasis on nuclear command and control. While operations on the flightline were the most visible portion of the exercise, the 608th Air Operations Center supported GT 15 behind the scenes by delivering US Strategic Command combat power, globally, on demand. During Global Thunder 15, the 608th AOC exercised its capability to use multiple communications links to USSTRATCOM assets, and practiced defending against cyber-attacks on those links.
Air Force Global Strike Command participated in Global Thunder, an annual field training and battle staff exercise that started Nov. 2, 2015. This U.S. Strategic Command annual command and control exercise provides training opportunities for AFGSC and its components to measure the major command's ability to support combatant commands around the globe. AFGSC is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping the nation's Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and bomber forces. Airmen from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; Whiteman AFB, Missouri; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; and Malmstrom AFB, Montana, trained in responding to simulated strategic threats against the United States and its allies. Each exercise scenario tested the command's ability to respond to a wide array of situations allowing the men and women of AFGSC to train to improve their overall strategic and operational experience.
Exercise Global Thunder 17, an annual command post and field training exercise, concluded 31 October 2016. U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), in coordination with U.S. and partner nation government agencies, conducted the exercise, which began Oct. 24, to train USSTRATCOM forces and assess joint operational readiness across all of the command’s Unified Command Plan-assigned mission areas.
“The scenario afforded USSTRATCOM’s headquarters staff, component commands and partners opportunities to validate existing operational plans and procedures while developing and testing innovative approaches for addressing complex and uncertain global security challenges,” said Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown, USSTRATCOM director of global operations. “Global Thunder 17 also provided us a chance to increase our interoperability between each of the combatant commands involved as well as our interagency partners and allies.” Global Thunder 17 afforded USSTRATCOM the opportunity to host U.K. and Canadian officers.
Following the conclusion of Exercise Global Thunder 2018, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Daniel Fillion, director of global operations for U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. William Houston, deputy director for strategic targeting and nuclear mission planning, sat down to share their insights on mission rehearsals, the command’s global reach and strategic deterrence in the 21st century. Exercise Global Thunder 2018 ended Nov. 7, 2017, and marked the first USSTRATCOM mission rehearsal for Fillion and Houston, both of whom have been in their current positions for less than a year.
“Everybody came in with the right mindset,” said Fillion, “From the minute we [kicked off] the exercise, we started talking about how this is not an exercise, this is a mission rehearsal.” Fillion went on to explain the difference between an exercise and a mission rehearsal. “With an exercise mindset, there is ‘ok, we were supposed to have this working or not working, so let’s stop and make it work,’” he said. “That kind of attitude does not train anybody for the strategic deterrence, decisive response and combat-ready force we maintain here 24 hours a day. When it’s a mission rehearsal, you don’t stop. You figure out how to get past that, you fight through it.
“We had several things, equipment-wise and process-wise, that didn’t work as advertised or anticipated, and we didn’t stop anything. We fought through it,” he added. “We rehearse the mission we’re doing right now, 24 hours a day, with 184,000 people worldwide.”
On 29 October 2018 U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) commenced Global Thunder 2019, an annual command and control exercise that provides training opportunities that assess all USSTRATCOM mission areas and joint and field training operational readiness, with a specific focus on nuclear readiness.
For Global Thunder 2019, the headquarters staff, USSTRATCOM components and subordinate units are participating in this exercise to test readiness and ensure a safe, secure, ready and reliable strategic deterrent force. “The nuclear triad is the backbone of strategic deterrence,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of USSTRATCOM. “Exercises like these integrate our unique capabilities across the joint force, in order to deter strategic threats and defend the nation. Our forces must be ready and prepared to execute orders globally wherever and whenever needed.”
"Deterrence in the 21st century has to be a global approach, and it must involve our allies and partners," said Hyten. "Which is why Global Thunder is a multinational exercise that operates on a global scale.”
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