The eagles leave their nest
After a period of more than 30 years the time has come that the E-3A Component's Eagles of Squadron 3 leave their nest. Due to the force restructure the squadron will soon be de-activated. Their final act was participating in COMPTUEX last September.
Composite Training Unit Exercises (COMPTUEX) are designed to certify United States Carrier Strike Group (CSG) as a deployment-ready fighting force capable of completing operations in overseas theaters. This COMPTUEX took place from Sept. 2 until Sept. 30, the exercise area was situated in the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the United States' East Coast. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTSG) was the center of gravity for a series of at sea-training scenarios meant to test proficiency in a range of areas including air warfare, strait transits, and responses to surface and subsurface contacts and electronic attacks. The E-3A Component operated out of Naval Station (NAS) Norfolk, VA, with two jets and two crews.
Unique maritime experience
Training with a maritime component like a CSG is no daily business for the E-3A Component. Deployment Commander, Major Tommy Sullivan, "COMPTUEX is a unique event in which the E-3A community can demonstrate the ability to interact with a maritime component. It's unlike any other exercises we participate in because our role as supporting element to CSG." Working with a CSG also brings challenges. "Carrier operations are event based, meaning that they operate on triggers. E-3A operations are time-based and have to be scheduled, which sometimes conflicts, and asks for flexibility from both sides."
Blue Air vs. Red Air
During the first two weeks of the exercise the goal was supporting Blue Air. In the last two weeks the focus was on fighting together with Red Air. This gave the crew a good opportunity to practice these skills which are not very commonly used. Fighter Allocator Captain Martijn explains, "Being part of Blue Air means many working along many procedures which we have to follow. Supporting Red Air gives you more freedom of movement. It's also easier to control Red Air because they don't have complicated rules of engagement or have to comply with id matrixes for example. The Red Air fighters we controlled during one of the missions simulated Chinese J-11 jets, which similar to the Sukhoi-27 and we were simulating a Chinese Y-8 AWACS aircraft. This definitely means other tactics and ways to operate, but absolutely a great experience."
Remarkable during this exercise was the deployment of 17 people from Forward Operating Location Ørland. Chief logistics Captain Egil Rønning: "For the FOL personnel it's the first time since Operation Unified Protector in 2011 that our personnel is on TDY. Our people are currently filling positions at logistics and ops". Rønning who will retire this year after 40 years of active service continues: "Operating out of area is always challenging, however the perfect cooperation and equipment at NAS Norfolk makes our job much easier. The local personnel is ready to support 24/7."
COMPTUEX marks the end of an era of one of three flying squadrons of the E-3A Component. Therefore the squadron tried hard not only to achieve maximum exercise output, but also maximum output for the personnel. Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Held: "Because the duration of the exercise, which lasted four weeks, we tried to give everybody a chance to deploy to Norfolk for at least two weeks". In total around 80 people took part at COMPTUEX. Lt.Col. Held: "During the missions there is no difference between the level of professionalism and motivation compared to other exercises. During time off you notice people talking a lot about their future at the Component. Two days prior to deploying to Norfolk the squadron members were notified about their temporarily realignment, so you can imagine that people have a lot to discuss with each other."
Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group
For CSG's COMPTUEX is essential getting qualified for deployment. Rear Adm. Bret Batchhelder, commander, Carrier Strike Group 8: "I'm very impressed with how well the strike group worked together as a team. We began this exercise as six ships and an Air Wing. We finished as a unified, tested and proven Strike Group." HSTCSG is scheduled to deploy late this year and includes the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Carrier Air Wing 7, guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68), Destroyer Squadron 28, and guided-missile destroyers Gravely, Bulkeley, Gonzalez and Ramage.