MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members banded together to practice an array of offensive/defensive firepower during exercise Iron Spear, Oct. 11 through 13.
Through joint, bilateral planning and mission execution, approximately 300 JGSDF assigned to the 1st Air Defense Artillery Brigade alongside 40 pilots and 18 electronic warfare officers practiced their suppression of enemy air defense and counter air defense skills in the skies near Okushiri Island, Japan.
“On a day-to-day basis, we create training loads simulating emitters, however this training we had live emitter operators, providing the most genuine combat training,” said Capt. Eric Foster, the 14th Fighter Squadron chief of standard evaluations. “We saw what real emitters look like on our high-speed anti-radiation missile targeting systems as opposed to a computer simulation.”
The exercise allowed the 1st ADA Brigade to test their surface-to-air missile capabilities against the 35th Fighter Wing F-16s and the forward-deployed Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 134 EA-18s in a number of simulated combat scenarios.
"This exercise tested the dependability and capability of the F-16s, the systems on them and the pilots’ tactics against that type of threat," said Capt. Dakota Newton, a 14th Fighter Squadron SEAD flight lead. "Through this exercise, the pilots became more capable of neutralizing the threat."
The 1st ADA Brigade mission is to defend Japan against aerial attack aircraft by using SAM systems; the SEAD mission destroys enemy air defenses, which prevent striker aircraft from going in and dropping bombs.
“Essentially, we both benefited from the exercise because we incorporated one another’s primary mission into the planning portion of the collaboration,” said Foster. “We worked together yet against each other.”
The combined training offered the most real-life warfare training available while not employing ordnance. There were six missions over the course of three days; each mission included four F-16s and three Growlers performing SEAD and two F-16s striking targets. With the objective of destroying nine enemy SAM systems owned by the JGSDF, this package entered the missile engagement zone, fending off not only the SAM operators but also two U.S. F-16s replicating opposition aircraft.
“We gained a better understanding of how JGSDF would defend Japan, and they got a chance to see how enemy would try and defeat them,” said Foster. “This boosts tactics for both parties.”
"We have a tremendous amount of information we can learn—culturally and professionally,” Newton added. "The result of exercise Iron Spear is a realistic environment for us to practice, evaluate and adapt our tactics.