Valiant Shield presents challenge of coordinating Air Force, Navy jets
June 23, 2006
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Sharing airspace with 300 U.S. warplanes is not something you do on the fly.
It takes a lot of planning — especially when mixing Navy planes with the Air Force, said Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, a B-2 aviator with the 509th Bomb Wing.
“We’ve been working through that for the last couple of days,” Tibbets — namesake grandson of the bomber pilot who flew the B-29 that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II — said Wednesday at Andersen Air Force Base.
The exercise — Valiant Shield — merges 22,000 U.S. military personnel, 30 ships and 280 aircraft for wartime simulation drills through Friday. The inaugural exercise — the largest of its kind in a decade — combines Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard forces.
In the air are seven types of aircraft, including F-15C, F-15E, F-16CJ and F/A-18C fighters, KC-135 and KC-10 refueling tankers, and E-3 airborne warning and control planes.
“Integrating with our Naval Strike Group buddies is critical,” Tibbets said. “We all work together; we all fight together. Communicating with each other is still a challenge — that’s why it’s better to practice this in an exercise.”
The main thing is “not hitting each other,” joked Carrier Air Wing 14 commander Capt. Craig Williams, embarked on the USS Ronald Reagan.
The view from the air is pretty good, said Capt. Kristopher Struve, a pilot from Misawa Air Base in Japan.
“It’s good joint asset training and requires a lot of cross talk,” he said.
The majority of planes in the air are Navy from the three embarked air wings on the USS Kitty Hawk, USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Ronald Reagan. The man commanding them is an Air Force officer, as flight operations for Valiant Shield are being run out of the Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters in Hawaii.
But Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who commands the Kenney warfighting center, doesn’t want to dwell on the distinction, he said in a video-teleconference Wednesday.
“Air power is air power,” he said. “This is a way to work out the challenges in advance.”