UAE, U.S. Forces Conduct Aviation Live Fire Exercise in Arabian Gulf

By Staff Sgt. Anne K. Henry, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade | August 17, 2020

ARABIAN GULF - The United Arab Emirates Joint Aviation Command (JAC), U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) and U.S. Special Operations Central Command (SOCCENT) conducted an air operations in support of maritime surface warfare (AOMSW) exercise in the Arabian Gulf, Aug. 9-12.

The exercise included Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) directing live fires at simulated targets from an AC-130W gunship attached to SOCCENT and rotary and fixed wing aircraft attached to the JAC. It gave Emirati and U.S. pilots a chance to hone strike capabilities together against surface targets such as maritime infrastructure and fast attack craft.

“Interoperability is a key to success in any domain,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ashton Sawyer, chief of the AFCENT Air Warfare Center’s (AWC) Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C2ISR) branch. “Constant training ensures our combined forces are ready to defend against any enemy.”

The JTACs, assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC), AFCENT and SOCCENT, were stationed aboard a variety of aviation and surface assets, including USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships (PC) attached to NAVCENT Task Force (TF) 55, and MK VI patrol boats assigned to NAVCENT TF 56. Puller also served as an afloat staging platform for both UAE and U.S. aircraft.

“JTACs operate on the ground as the eyes providing a vital link between the air and surface,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Tatum, an AFCENT AWC JTAC. “We are responsible for the safety of friendly aircraft while providing strike control of nearby assets.”

Prior to the exercise, UAE pilots prepared by successfully completing deck landing qualifications aboard the Puller.

This also follows joint integration exercises between U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force assets in March, April and May, featuring shipboard JTACs directing live fires from AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and AC-130W Stinger II gunships.

Participating U.S. forces included NAVCENT TFs 55, 56 and 57, the USS Lewis B. Puller, SPMAGTF-CR-CC, SOCCENT, and the AFCENT AWC located at Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE.  

Integration operations between UAE and U.S. maritime forces are regularly held to maintain interoperability and the capability to counter threats posed in the maritime domain, ensuring freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce throughout the region’s heavily trafficked waterways.

“Our robust, joint and combined training increases our skill sets to ensure regional security and remains an important pillar of our military relationship with the United Arab Emirates”, said Brig. Gen. Farrell J. Sullivan, commanding general, Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.