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Joint, multinational exercise enhances capabilities against near-peer adversaries

U.S. Air Force F-15E strikes eagles take-off while three HH-60G Pave Hawks standby Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Both airframes are participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, which aims to hone joint and multi-national armed forces to become more agile and lethal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

U.S. Air Force F-15E strikes eagles take-off while three HH-60G Pave Hawks standby Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Both airframes are participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, which aims to hone joint and multi-national armed forces to become more agile and lethal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 923rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work a HH-60G Pave Hawk rotor engine, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. These Airmen are participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where they trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 923rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work a HH-60G Pave Hawk rotor engine, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. These Airmen are participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where they trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the 213th Strike Fighter Squadron, prepares to take flight for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, Aug. 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the 213th Strike Fighter Squadron, prepares to take flight for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, Aug. 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)

An aircrewmember of an U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron puts on gloves in preparation for a simulated rescue mission, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where it trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

An aircrewmember of an U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron puts on gloves in preparation for a simulated rescue mission, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where it trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 389th Fighter Squadron, taxis down the flightline for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, Aug. 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 389th Fighter Squadron, taxis down the flightline for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, Aug. 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)

A retractable refueling probe on a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The refueling probe allows for extended missions without having to land. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A retractable refueling probe on a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The refueling probe allows for extended missions without having to land. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron parks on the flightline Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where it trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron parks on the flightline Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where it trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron turns on its rotors as part of a pre-flight inspection, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where it trains with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron turns on its rotors as part of a pre-flight inspection, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where they train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A rotor blade from a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The rotor is created with anti-ice technology to combat adverse weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A rotor blade from a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron, Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The rotor is created with anti-ice technology to combat adverse weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 389th Fighter Squadron, engages the afterburners for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, Aug. 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)
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An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 389th Fighter Squadron, engages the afterburners for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, Aug. 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the 213th Strike Fighter Squadron, takes flight for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, August 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)
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A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the 213th Strike Fighter Squadron, takes flight for Gunfighter Flag 20-1, August 18, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)

U.S. Navy Seamen perform maintenance on a F/A-18 Hornet from the 213th Strike Fighter Squadron during Gunfighter Flag 20-1, August 19, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Akeem Campbell)
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U.S. Navy Seamen perform maintenance on a F/A-18 Hornet from the 213th Strike Fighter Squadron during Gunfighter Flag 20-1, August 19, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. GFF 20-1 provides units the opportunity to train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Akeem Campbell)

A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron taxis down the flightline Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where they train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)
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A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 55th Rescue Squadron taxis down the flightline Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The 55th RQS is participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, where they train with joint and international partners to complete combat and rescue exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

U.S. Air Force F-15E strikes eagles take-off while three HH-60G Pave Hawks standby Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Both airframes are participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, which aims to hone joint and multi-national armed forces to become more agile and lethal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)
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U.S. Air Force F-15E strikes eagles take-off while three HH-60G Pave Hawks standby Aug. 17, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Both airframes are participating in Gunfighter Flag 20-1, which aims to hone joint and multi-national armed forces to become more agile and lethal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka)

A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules taxis down the flightline during Gunfighter Flag 20-1, August 19, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The C-130 is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Akeem Campbell)
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A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules taxis down the flightline during Gunfighter Flag 20-1, August 19, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The C-130 is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Akeem Campbell)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --

The true strength of the U.S. military lies in its joint, allied and partner capabilities. That is, the combined power and coordinated efforts between branches of the U.S. military and nations across the world. Few places provide a more realistic training grounds than the high desert found at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

The Mountain Home Range Complex offers 9,600 square miles of airspace to train an array of combat, rescue and support missions.

Throughout the week of Aug. 17, 2020, fighter jets, helicopters, a C-130 Hercules and more came together to train in a challenging and ever-changing environment. This was an exercise known as Gunfighter Flag (GFF) 20-1.

This exercise leverages the unique airspace of the region to host a large scale employment of aircraft from Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia, as well as the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army.

“The goal was to integrate and refine our joint international partner capabilities against near-peer threat adversaries,” said Maj. Michael Lynch, 366th Fighter Wing chief of weapons and tactics and the exercise director.

They have achieved this by flying up to 40 aircraft simultaneously in the same airspace and completing hundreds of missions in a span of a week.

Some of the participants included are the 55th Rescue Squadron, 389th Fighter Squadron, 391st Fighter Squadron, 62nd Fighter Squadron, 428th Fighter Squadron, 266th Range Squadron and 213th Strike Fighter Squadron.

Planning and executing such complex training could be challenging without a considerable amount of coordination. Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Miller, 366th Fighter Wing NCO in charge of plans and receptions, is responsible for that coordination. She ensures that visiting units have a streamlined funnel of information and resources to make them mission-ready before they arrive.

“I work with Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and other nations. Everyone comes here to train,” Miller said. “I have to know how to communicate with them all, which can be challenging. But exercises like GFF are special, not only because it is huge and diverse, but because everyone learns to speak in one voice to complete the mission.”

With other military branches and countries participating in GFF, it is necessary to build a shared professional language to use as they continue to work together in the future.

“We have to learn to be flexible in our communications and operations,” Lynch said. “As a wing, every unit is tested as they step outside of their usual work to support an influx of units and an increase in operational tempo around the base. This test of flexibility is directly in-line with the Air Force’s focus on creating an agile and adaptable force needed for future fights.”

Even as the participants learn to become one cohesive team, they are made stronger and more effective by being forced to overcome new and unknown opposition.

“The range and our adversary equipment here are some of the best in the Department of Defense,” Lynch said. “The advanced threat we simulate will provide a real world test to our participants.”

The 266th RANS from the Air National Guard was out all week moving threats, changing targets and conducting simulated opposition forces. This ever-changing environment means every scenario will require different solutions.

“Our adversaries won’t be static and this requires us to be able to quickly shift strategies,” Lynch said. “Building this into our training now means our execution will maintain a tactical edge and increase our problem solving abilities.”

Meanwhile, having a broad group of career fields and air frames working together allows the Air Force and other participants to learn each other’s capabilities and then train to leverage those abilities to increase lethality in the real-world and overall mission readiness.

“Throughout this exercise I have continued to learn the extent of the combined strength of our multi-national capabilities in a joint fight,” Lynch said. “Additionally, the ability of the 366th FW team to innovate and provide solutions to problems presented during COVID-19 is what has enabled an event of this size and scope to still occur.”

Regardless of world events and uncertain times, the Air Force leads the way to enhancing readiness and strengthening our alliances and partnerships.

Lynch said it simply like this:

“Exercises like GFF 20-1 sharpens us into an agile and lethal force to meet current and future threats.”