SOUTHWEST ASIA --- Achieving airpower objectives more effectively is what more than 200 of the most proficient expeditionary Airmen gathered recently to discuss at the quarterly Weapons and Tactics Conference in Bahrain in July.
The Weapons and Tactics Conference is a venue for Air Force weapons officers along with joint and coalition subject matter experts to meet face to face with their counterparts in the theater to improve their effectiveness both on and above the battlefield.
Having the current tactics leaders, the ones who are flying combat missions every day, get together to share ideas and best practices from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom is critical to success, said Col. William Mullins, the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.
"(The Weapons and Tactics Conference) facilitates a tactics discussion at an operational level," said Colonel Mullins, a command pilot with more than 3,200 hours in the F-4 Phantom and F-15E Strike Eagle. "This is our chance to ask ourselves if we're doing what we need to do to achieve the desired effects and decide what we can do to improve upon our tactics and our processes."
Prior to the conference, officials from each air wing in U.S. Central Command Air Forces submitted a list of their current issues and proposals for solutions. During the four-day event, working groups were divided among major airpower divisions such as close-air support, combat search and rescue, weaponeering, airspace command and control, mobility, non-traditional intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance or IRS, data links and training. The groups tackled issues in each area to come up with potential improvements.
One topic they explored was how to integrate the RC-135 Rivet Joint ISR capabilities with non-traditional ISR platforms such as fighter and bomber aircraft.
"We presented an idea of how to better facilitate the flow of information between ISR platforms, (joint tactical attack controllers) and other combat platforms such as F-16 (Fighting Falcons) and B-1B (Lancers)," said Lt. Col. John Harrison, the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander and expert in the ISR aspect of the RC-135.
"What we came away with was the ability to directly support the warfighter on the ground while working hand-in-hand with the bomb droppers in addition to our job to listen and detect," he said.
After resolving as many issues as possible at the lowest levels, they had the opportunity to tell the boss what they need from him to better execute the mission. During the final day of the conference, the proposals were briefed to Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, the CENTAF commander and Coalition Forces Air Component commander, since many of the solutions required general officer approval or direct coordination with the leaders of the other services.
"We have already seen the results of the conference in the ISR community and their integration into the (close-air-support) mission," said Colonel Mullins, a native of Charlotte, N.C. "We're seeing results, and it's all good."
Attendees walked away from the conference with the ability to incorporate airpower better for all platforms to achieve the objective at hand, whether that is putting bombs on target, providing shows-of-force, command and control or close-air support, and improving training programs back home so Airmen are ready to fight on Day 1 of their deployment, Colonel Mullins said.
"The big take-aways were how to integrate the ISR capability with the non-traditional platforms, how we can improve our dynamic targeting cycle, manage our airspace better and how we can respond more quickly to critical situations on the ground," he said.