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NEWS | April 27, 2015

Kunsan Takes Flight at Max Thunder 15-1

By Senior Airman Taylor Curry, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Wolf Pack Airmen joined other members of U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Republic of Korea Air Force units at Gwangju Air Base, ROK, for Exercise Max Thunder 15-1, April 10-24.

"This is the seventh year of Max Thunder, and its core principles remain much the same today as when it began," said Col. Brian Carr, 51st Fighter Wing vice commander and Max Thunder 15-1 deployed forces commander. "These intricate scenarios continue to focus on the combined and joint integration of air power across many disciplines while enhancing the capability of ROKAF and U.S. flying units to conduct combat air operations together."

Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled flying exercise held twice per year and is the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. This latest exercise included more than 750 U.S. personnel, approximately 170 of those hailing from Kunsan Air Base.

"This iteration of Max Thunder was a great opportunity for Wolf Pack Airmen to work alongside our fellow Air Force, Marine and ROKAF counterparts at an unfamiliar base," said Col. Ken "Wolf" Ekman, 8th Fighter Wing commander. "Practicing realistic combat scenarios in a different environment not only sharpens our own capabilities, but makes us stronger as a combined force. This ultimately enhances the Alliance's ability to fight tonight."

A major objective of this large-scale employment exercise involved increasing U.S. and ROK interoperability with dissimilar aircraft, enabling aircrew members to be battle-ready for any potential situation.

"This was a golden opportunity to mission plan together and to better understand each other's capabilities," said Lt. Col. Elika Bowmer, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 commanding officer. "Putting all these units in one place and having face-to-face conversations forces us to break down communication barriers and exchange ideas, making us more tactically fit to counter any threats."

While Max Thunder exercises generally aim to strengthen interoperability between U.S. and ROK airpower assets, a particular goal for this exercise was to increase combined command and control and intelligence coordination.

"This was the first time we co-located our U.S. and ROKAF exercise staff intel representatives, and this integration had an extremely positive impact on our exercise scenarios," said Maj. Erik Axt, 7th Air Force chief of training and Max Thunder 15-1 exercise director. "We were able to plan and execute more sorties than at any previous Max Thunder, which provided ample training opportunities for our pilots to practice combined operations."

While Wolf Pack pilots flew multiple sorties throughout the two-week period, maintainers focused on getting the jets in the air.

"My mission is to make sure these jets fly," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Conley, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanic. "It's an amazing feeling being able to operate here at Gwangju with our ROKAF brothers and sisters. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from them and see the differences between our operations. I look forward to participating in future exercises with them." 

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