ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. , –
Aircrew from all 8th Air Force bases flew over the Powder River Training Complex together for the first time during Combat Raider 19-1 on Oct. 16-18. They coordinated with joint tactical air controllers from the Royal Canadian Armed Forces and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, who helped coordinate simulated air strikes from the ground.
All three types of bombers – the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress – flew in the exercise. Through their participation in Combat Raider 19-1, the aircrew were able to become more proficient at providing aerial support to ground troops, and the JTACS were able to gain familiarity with the bombers and their capabilities.
“Combat Raider is an opportunity to integrate the various assets that the joint force has into a one force presentation,” said Lt. Col. Keith O’Halloran, the 28th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations. “We also train mission commanders in an environment similar to that which they would experience in various theaters around the globe.”
The exercise has hosted service members from other nations in previous iterations. Of the Canadian JTACS present this year, some had participated in the past.
“This is my third time visiting South Dakota,” said Capt. Chris Tymchuk, a JTAC troop commander assigned to the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 1st Regiment. “This is valuable to the JTAC program within Canada. Combat Raider is important to us because bomber [ground support] is something Canadians don’t get many chances to do. It’s a lot different and helps us to be more effective.”
As the largest dedicated military training space in the continental U.S., the Powder River Training Complex can accommodate a multitude of players during an exercise. Because of the expansive scope of Combat Raider 19-1, the exercise not only boasted bombers and JTACs, but also tankers from McConnell AFB, Kansas, and Robbins AFB, Georgia; the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; and HH-60G Pave Hawks from the South Dakota Air National Guard.
There have been eight Combat Raider exercises in total. Combat Raider 19-1 is not the largest in terms of the number of aircraft, but in O’Halloran’s words, it was “the most robust.”
“This Combat Raider is one of ‘firsts,’” O’Halloran stated. “We have high-altitude airspace up to 51,000 feet. We also have the new Joint Threat Emitter System and GPS jamming.”
The use of GPS jammers to disrupt operations represents a capability that U.S. adversaries already have. Playing this scenario during Combat Raider 19-1 provided aircrews the opportunity to train using RADAR, terrain association, and a map and a compass to determine their location.
Chief Master Sgt. Adam Vizi, the 28th Bomb Wing command chief, explained that the training allowed aircrews to hone preexisting skills “so that we can fly, fight and win in any combative scenario.” He added that the exercise also showcased the bombers’ abilities to get in, strike the target and get out in any contested or degraded environment.