MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Sailors assigned to the “Star Warriors” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209, and Airmen assigned to the “Panthers” of the 13th Fighter Squadron, and the “Samurai” of the 14th Fighter Squadron are increasing their warfighting readiness and survivability during a series of local integration training exercises.
The daily training exercises between the Navy’s EA-18G Growlers and the Air Force’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons are taking place over the course of several weeks, with the intent of developing and strengthening Navy and Air Force interoperability though a series of realistic scenarios.
“We have some different terminology, there are certain things we do differently, but we are overall aligned very well,” said Cmdr. Pete Scheu, VAQ-209’s public affairs officer. “The reason we are out there is to learn and get smarter, to get better at what it is we do, and get better with integration.”
VAQ-209’s mission is to safely train, attain, and maintain mobilization readiness for immediate employment in the event of a conflict or national emergency, and their efforts in learning and working with the Airmen of both the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons exemplifies their commitment to uphold the mission.
“Electronic attack squadrons are the only aircraft squadrons in the military which can defeat threat radars non-kinetically, thus increasing friendly force survivability,” said Scheu.
The Fighting Falcons are tasked with finding their targets and eliminating them, while the Growlers jam any radars from enemy threats, which in turn leads to an increased rate of survivability and enhanced warfighting readiness.
“In general as a squadron, we do this all the time,” said Scheu. “As part of our workup process, we have to do multiple LFEs, or Large Force Exercises. We have been to Alaska, Duluth, Minnesota, Volk Field, Minnesota, and Nellis Air Force base quite a bit. We do this constantly, all the time.”
All participants in the joint training exercises partake in comprehensive planning briefs in order to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the event. It is through such means that participants can openly discuss their capabilities and maximize their lines of communication.
“Training with our Navy counterparts provides us the opportunity to develop and strengthen our interoperability,” said Maj. David Dubel, director of operations for the 14th Fighter Squadron.
In order to keep in line with COVID-19 countermeasures, special arrangements were put in place for both pre-exercise briefs and post-exercise debriefs.
“We look forward to learning from one another and working together to achieve our ultimate mission, the defense of Japan and forwarding U.S. priorities. I am proud to fly alongside these men and women who take their jobs seriously and understand that we are all part of the same team,” said Dubel.
The 14th Fighter Squadron conducts Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) air operations in support of the 35th Operations Group.
“The level of integration depends on our phase of training,” said Dubel. “In the current phase, we are training in our primary mission set, SEAD. We are currently integrating in both flying periods each day.”
Although both services have their individual training schedules, and accompanying areas of expertise, their continued, combined efforts synchronize with the mission of protecting U.S. interests in the Pacific and defending Japan, as well as deterring adversaries through their presence, readiness, and ability to project air combat power.
“Even though we start from a common ground in Air, Land and Sea Applications (ALSA), it remains theory until we have the opportunity to exercise it in the air at 400 knots,” said Dubel. “Having the Growlers here and willing to integrate on almost every missionized sortie has helped turn theory into execution.”
Understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures between each service strengthens warfighters to be better prepared for any future possible Air Tasking Order.
“Flying and working together is extremely valuable, allowing us to become more effective at SEAD planning and execution, resulting in a more lethal combined force,” said Dubel.
“It really is synergistic,” said Scheu. “It is really incredible how much we can complement each other, help each other, and exponentially increase our warfighting readiness and survivability against whatever tactical problem we face.”
Individually, each service is quite formidable, but together, in their continued efforts to draw strength from solidarity, they are a global force to be reckoned.
VAQ-209 is currently forward deployed to Naval Air Facility Misawa in support of United States Indo-Pacific Command joint security and presence operations.