Kadena Flight Provides Air Picture For Exercise
(Source : US Department of Defense ; issued Nov. 20, 2001)

NAHA AIR BASE, Japan:---There is not a lot of room in a fighter cockpit to unfold a road map. Fortunately, maps were not required during this year's Cope North exercise which tests the military might necessary to defend Japan.

Instead of maps, exercise participants relied on weapons directors from the 623rd Air Control Flight at Kadena Air Base, Japan, who can see for miles using a system of ground-based radars. The radars provide a three-dimensional air picture to aid in the defense of Japan.

Working out of the Southwestern Direction Center here, the 623rd's Theater Control Operations Team helped pilots with their real-time situational awareness. Employed in conjunction with airborne warning and control system aircraft from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron and the Japanese air self-defense force, this integrated air defense system provides the command and control necessary to effectively employ air power.

Weapons directors identify and track all aircraft in assigned sectors around the island. Much like the AWACS, their ground-based scopes display the progress of a battle while directors provide information to pilots about how many bad guys are out there, where they are, and the status of friendly forces.

Maj. John Askew, commander of the 623rd ACF, said pilots could have an increasingly limited view of the "big picture" as they become engaged with an adversary.

"The pilots obviously have ultimate control of the weapons," Askew said. "Our job is to provide information that's unavailable in the cockpit to allow them to make better and more timely decisions -- in short, to keep their situational awareness as high as possible."

During normal training, U.S. weapons directors only control American aircraft while the Japanese control their own planes. Cope North gives the directors the opportunity to control planes flying each other's flag. These indirect advisory missions provide invaluable training and a better understanding of each other's combat capability, said exercise officials.

Capt. Kazuhiro Chiba, from the Japan air self-defense force's Southwestern Air Defense Squadron, said it is important for the United States and Japan to work together on controlling the skies over Japan.

"Our countries have a security treaty and if something were to happen, we would fight together," he said. "It's good training."

"They're very good at what they do," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Lyon, a 623rd weapons director. "Their procedures are different than ours and it sometimes gets confusing, but overall, our cross-controlling went well."

Staff Sgt. Carly Biddick, who has been a weapons director for three years, agrees with Lyon.

"The Japanese employ their planes differently than we do," she said. "In addition to speaking a (different) language, the Japanese directors had to learn a new set of jargon to speak to our pilots. It wasn't easy."

American E-3 and Japanese E-767 AWACS planes extend the air picture for hundreds of miles by taking their airborne weapons systems more than 25,000 feet above the battlefield. The Theater Control Operations Team completes Kadena's one-two punch of ground and air-based command and control that allow pilots to leave the maps at home


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