USAF, U.S. Army train with Royal Saudi Air Force during air defense exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leala Marquez
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and 77th Fighter Generation Squadron trained with the U.S. Army and Royal Saudi Air Force to execute the joint force and partner nation exercise Desert Mirage II, Jan. 19-20, 2020.

The two-day exercise deployed U.S. Air Force aircraft assigned to the 378th, 332nd and 379th Air Expeditionary Wings, RSAF’s 7th Flying Wing and assets from the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

“We utilized a live fly event to further develop our bi-lateral Defensive Counter Air and Integrated Defense Design, tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Maj. John Cox, 378th AEW plans and programs chief.

Desert Mirage featured an array of aircraft including the F-16C Fighting Falcon, F-15E/SA, Pilatus PC-21, Saab E-2000 and Panavia Tornado, which worked in conjunction with U.S. Army ADA Ground Control Interceptors to neutralize simulated inbound air threats such as unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

“[The exercise] allows us to understand each aircraft’s and ground agency’s strengths and limitations,” said a 77th EFS pilot.

According to Cox, exercises in the region are essential for joint force and partner nation integration as well as sharpening the skillsets of PSAB’s professionals.

“While the Air Force provides fully trained assets to the CENTCOM AOR, many of our personnel have not worked alongside our sister services or regional partners prior to deploying,” said Cox. “It’s important for our personnel to practice uncommon procedures to understand how others operate together. Integrating partner RSAF units into operations drives planning and communication, and our joint exercises provide that great opportunity to increase mission effectiveness through that process.”

Along with improving interoperability between U.S. and RSAF components, the exercise also highlighted how exponentially more effective the two nations are when capitalizing on each other’s strengths.

“Desert Mirage II has shown our respective Air Forces are more successful conducting integrated air defense together,” said Cox. “Each side was able to learn from one another and grow as a team to accomplish the mission.”

The 77th EFS pilot explained Desert Mirage II also aimed to solidify the processes, procedures and rules of engagement that are necessary to ensure effective command and control relationships.

Desert Mirage II is one of many exercises the 378th AEW plans on conducting with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to bolster PSAB’s mission of sustaining and defending its joint forces, while projecting combat airpower in support of theater plans and operations.

“The Desert Mirage II exercise provided an opportunity for multiple U.S. and KSA combat units to practice defending joint forces at PSAB, which ties into the mission here,” said Cox. “We are both looking forward to future training events to strengthen working relationships between KSA and U.S. flying wings.”