NATO AWACS integrates with U.S. Navy, improves maritime capabilities
NATO AWACS took part in a live, scenario-driven tactical exercise with the U.S. Navy from Jan. 16 to Jan. 28, 2015.
For 12 days, two aircraft and more than 70 personnel from the E-3A Component participated in the Composite Training Unit Exercise, commonly referred to as COMPTUEX 2015, to improve maritime integration by conducting various maritime missions with units from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps.
"This exercise has provided the Component with valuable insight into U.S. naval operations beginning with the mission planning process through execution and debrief," said Maj. Marie Quick, the deployment commander. "The Component aircrew members supporting this exercise have received real-world training they would not otherwise obtain at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen during a maritime simulation where it is sometimes difficult to simulate numerous external agencies."
Operating out of Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va., Component aircrew members executed several naval missions off the eastern coast of the United States to include surface search control, maritime air control, sector air defense control and maritime strike.
"Any exercise where the Component can train with any military from any country only enhances the capabilities of the E-3A," Major Quick explained. "By participating in the COMPTUEX, the E-3A aircrews have learned how to coordinate missions with the U.S. Navy and execute operations to support their fleet. The experience gained here better prepares the E-3A for any future operations with the U.S. Navy."
In addition to the experience gained by the aircrew, the Component was also able to attain more training for the flight deck during COMPTUEX. The flight deck accomplished more pattern work after completing a sortie as well as other qualifications that are more difficult to achieve at the main operating base. One specific maneuver the pilots practiced was retrograding, which is turning the jet away from an enemy aircraft and descending quickly to create extra distance from the threat.
"Some of this training is difficult to conduct in Europe because of the restricted air space," explained Maj. Gunther Drews, pilot. "By completing this training here, the Component had an added benefit of reducing the amount of noise created at Geilenkirchen."
Of course, the whole exercise was dependent on the work done behind the scenes. Maintenance personnel and crew chiefs worked continuously to ensure the Component was able to meet exercise and mission requirements.
"The daily flying schedule was an added burden but we concentrated our efforts to ensure Ops always had one jet ready to fly and another on standby," said Chief Master Sgt. Rudi Slot, the deployed logistics officer.
Another key to the Component's overall success at COMPTUEX was the liaison officers (LNOs). Three U.S. Navy officers from the Component translated navy terms and procedures to the Component's Air Force personnel. Also, the Component had an Air Force member on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt to ensure the U.S. Navy employed the E-3A in the "best way possible" to support the maritime mission.
"These officers have expertly demonstrated the most effective way to conduct missions with the U.S. Navy," Major Quick said. "Wit