French/U.S. Air Forces hone aerial combat skills
In the skies above Djibouti, members of the U.S. and French Air Forces joined together in an unlikely training scenario, pitting helicopters against fighter aircraft in a simulated hostile rescue situation.
Members of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's 303rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron partnered with French Air Force Mirage 2000-5 fighter pilots here to conduct a combat exercise in which U.S. HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters recovered downed aircrew while being engaged by enemy fighters.
"The French Mirages were trying to find and engage us, and we attempted to avoid detection and defended ourselves accordingly," said Capt. David Nelson, 303 ERQS pilot.
Practicing aerial combat maneuvers gives pilots from both countries the opportunity to step outside of their normal training parameters and get hands-on experience in realistic combat scenarios. Although this exercise has the countries flying against one another, it allows each side to learn from one another and successfully work as a team in future joint engagements.
"Although we are fighting against each other, we are learning about the capabilities of each other's aircraft," said Maj. Adam Rudolphi, 303 ERQS commander.
Flying alongside ally aircraft builds teamwork and strengthens relations, important factors for potential future conflicts in which air-to-air engagements would be a possibility, he added.
For helicopter pilots, training against different platforms such as fighters allows them to expand their skills and capabilities, making them more prepared to handle any situation that may arise on the battlefield. Due to the rapid dynamics associated with aerial combat, training against a fighter adversary requires rapid crew coordination which can be carried over to the gamut of missions required of the HH-60 aircrews.
"Ideally we would have support going into a hostile environment, but it's good to have this training and prepare for worst-case scenarios," said Nelson. "Any time we can get this type of training, especially with a foreign ally, is something that is invaluable."
Multinational training translates directly to a more prepared, battle-ready force, capable of leveraging the strengths of partner nations. Regardless of the situation, CJTF-HOA's rescue personnel are prepared to recover our allies from harm's way and continue to provide peace and stability in the region.