SOUTHWEST ASIA --- The U.S. Air Forces Central Command Air Warfare Center concluded exercise Desert Flag, a three-week joint and multilateral exercise, in Southwest Asia, May 2, 2019.
Desert Flag, also known as IRON FALCON 19-2, is held semi-annually and provides aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in a training environment.
U.S. military personnel and multiple partner nations participated in the exercise, which involved various multi-role fighters, air refueling, command and control, and support aircraft. Additionally, the USS Kearsarge aircraft carrier, embarked with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, provided versatile, amphibious response support from the sea.
Lt. Col. John Harris, AFCENT AWC Air Warfare Division chief, played a crucial role as the exercise air boss.
Harris was responsible for creating exercise scenarios based on the participating assets to reach Desired Learning Objectives. Playing the role of headquarters during planning and execution, he ensured safety of flight while the assets are airborne.
“I used scenario injects to shape the mission to meet the DLOs,” Harris said. “During debrief, I facilitated training by cementing the lessons learned from the mission, enhancing overall coalition interoperability.”
Marine AV-8B Harriers from the 22nd MEU participated as strike assets in several exercise scenarios.
“This exercise was a great demonstration and learning experience for all involved,” said Maj. Joseph Swindell, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 (Reinforced), AV-8B pilot. “It brought together a wide spectrum of coalition assets that we are unable to regularly train with stateside. We are grateful for our inclusion in this exercise and look forward to working with our partner forces in the future.”
Partner nations worked together with U.S. forces by participating in day and night sorties during the exercise, rotating the roles of opposing and friendly forces.
“Working with partner nations is vital to regional stability,” Harris said. “The lessons learned further our interoperability, and these exercises build capability throughout all the participants.”
The 22-day exercise culminated with 211 sorties, made possible by 75 participants, including 50 pilots.
“It was an outstanding exercise,” Harris said. “The participants planned, flew, and debriefed in a multinational setting, with multiple different services, enhancing learning across the spectrum. The exercise was a resounding success, and we look forward to future learning engagements.”