By Airman 1st Class Zackary A. Henry, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base pulled off their most aggressive exercise to date with Forceful Tiger off the coast of Okinawa, April 1.
Forceful Tiger was a large force exercise (LFE) designed to demonstrate the 18th Wing’s combat capabilities to defend Okinawa and had more participation from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron than ever before.
“What we accomplished was an integration of all the mission sets at Kadena over an extended period,” said Lt. Col. Jack Flynt, the 909th ARS commander. “This is so we could actually exercise multiple different tactics, techniques and procedures we normally don’t get to in an LFE scenario.”
Twenty-four F-15C Eagles from the 67th and 47th Fighter Squadrons along with eight F-16 Fighting Falcons from Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, simulated allied and opposing forces to strengthen their ability to defend Okinawa in realistic scenarios.
The 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons were able to play on both sides as well. The allied side practiced rescuing downed pilots while the opposing forces simulated aggressors during the mission.
In order to ensure the “allied” pilots and crews could accomplish the mission, the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron provided an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) to manage the battle, guaranteeing each aircraft had enough fuel, weapons and were postured effectively within the training range.
“The E-3 Sentries played an important part within this exercise,” said Capt. Jesus Barciaga, the 961st AACS air battle manager. “They were responsible for making sure the right assets were at the right place, at the right time.”
For the aggressors, the 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron and 623rd Air Control Flight provided a similar function. The 82nd RS RC-135 Rivet Joint provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, while the 623rd ACF provided radar support.
With 50 aircraft in the air, the 909th ARS and 17th Special Operations Squadron fueled the fight with 11 KC-135 Stratotankers for the fighters and an MC-130P Combat Shadow for the HH-60G Pave Hawks. The Stratotankers alone provided more than 800,000 pounds of fuel in-air.
Although this is not the first exercise that the 909th ARS has participated in, Forceful Tiger did present a unique opportunity for them.
“We have a number of exercises that happen on a routine basis and luckily the 909th ARS has been able to support these missions,” said Lt. Col. John Burdick, the 909th ARS director of operations. “We have never been able to support an LFE to this scale like we have with Forceful Tiger.”
Flynt explained that this was due to the high operations tempo and demand for air refueling in the Pacific Air Force’s area of responsibility.
“This was one of the largest exercises we have ever had just because of the amount of air refueling tanker play that we put forward,” Flynt said. “That refueling allowed us to push this exercise to four hours.”