Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea --
Exercise Pacific Thunder 16-2 kicked off this week with both U.S. and Republic of Korea air force units from throughout the Pacific participating in simulated combat search and rescue missions.
The two-week long exercise is the largest combined joint exercise in the Pacific, and is designed to train aircrews and commanders on validating tactics, techniques and procedures used for combat search and rescue and suppression of enemy air defense.
“Combat search and rescue and personnel recovery are a critical part of any military operation,” said Col. Brian Carr, 51st Fighter Wing vice commander. “Pacific Thunder provides an excellent opportunity for U.S. Airmen and other service members to get familiar with CSAR operations on the Korean Peninsula. This exercise is an extremely valuable tool that helps U.S. Airmen learn to work alongside our Republic of Korea partners to enhance our combined combat capabilities.”
Aircraft used in the exercise include A-10s and F-16s from the 51st Fighter Wing; F-16s from the 8th Fighter Wing; HH-60 Pave Hawks, E-3 AWACS, and an RC-135 from the 18th Wing; and U-2s from 7th Air Force alongside more than 200 ROKAF personnel and 22 aircraft.
Each airframe plays a specific role to ensure survivors of downed aircraft are safely returned home, such as HH-60s picking up survivors, while A-10s find and protect them with air-to-ground capabilities. The integration of support aircraft such as E-3s to keep lines of communication open and KC-135s to refuel aircraft in the air is integral to conducting CSAR missions.
“We want to integrate with our Pilsung brothers from the 25th Fighter Squadron so we can practice high-end combat search and rescue training,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin Conde, 33rd Rescue Squadron commander. “We want to train like we fight in the Korean theater.”
The varied functions of the different types of aircraft all come together to accomplish one singular mission: find survivors and bring them home.
“It’s one of the few opportunities that the 33rd has of graduate level combat search and rescue training, where we are integrating strike assets and a variety of ISR assets and C2 assets to effect the recovery of downed pilots,” said Conde.
Through combined CSAR training, Exercise Pacific Thunder is enhancing the combat readiness between U.S. and Republic of Korea air forces to work seamlessly together, and to enrich interoperability between the U.S. and ROKAF.