JTACs and aircrews participate in joint exercise over PRTC

During the training, the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, switched back and forth between the different aircraft, relaying targets to both of them at the same time.

A B-1 bomber from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., flies over a UH-1N Huey helicopter from the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., during a joint exercise in the Powder River Training Complex in western South Dakota, Dec. 7, 2017. During the training, the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, switched back and forth between the different aircraft, relaying targets to both of them at the same time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

While B-1 aircrews from the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., scanned the area and simulated neutralizing larger targets, the Huey crew provided additional close air support, utilizing their small arms to take on individual targets.

A UH-1N Huey helicopter from the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., performs close air support during a joint training exercise in the Powder River Training Complex in western South Dakota, Dec. 7, 2017. While B-1 aircrews from the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., scanned the area and simulated neutralizing larger targets, the Huey crew provided additional close air support, utilizing their small arms to take on individual targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Helicopter teams from F.E. Warren AFB trained with Ellsworth B-1 aircrews and the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, in an area of the Powder River Training Complex in western South Dakota, from Dec. 4 to 8, 2017.

A UH-1N Huey helicopter from the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., prepares for takeoff from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., Dec. 7, 2017. Helicopter teams from F.E. Warren AFB trained with Ellsworth B-1 aircrews and the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, in an area of the Powder River Training Complex in western South Dakota, from Dec. 4 to 8, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

The exercise was the Huey aircrew’s first time training with the B-1 bomber and was designed to help prepare them for real-world situations.

A UH-1N Huey helicopter from the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 7, 2017. The exercise was the Huey aircrew’s first time training with the B-1 bomber and was designed to help prepare them for real-world situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

The exercise provided Akerson and other helicopter aviators the unique opportunity to work with both the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Ellsworth B-1 bomber aircrews.

Staff Sgt. Travis Akerson, a special missions aviator assigned to the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., surveys the landscape as the aircrew flies toward the Powder River Training Complex, in western South Dakota, Dec. 7, 2017. The exercise provided Akerson and other helicopter aviators the unique opportunity to work with both the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Ellsworth B-1 bomber aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

During the exercise, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force provided B-1 bomber aircrews and UH-1N Huey aviators, tactical information for targets.

Staff Sgt. Travis Akerson, a special missions aviator assigned to the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., surveys the landing zone in an area of the Powder River Training Complex in western South Dakota, Dec. 7, 2017. During the exercise, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force provided B-1 bomber aircrews and UH-1N Huey aviators, tactical information for targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

During the training, B-1s aircrews scanned the area and neutralized larger targets, while the Huey crew provided close air support.

A UH-1N Huey from the 37th Helicopter Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., prepares to return to Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., after completing their training objective in the Powder River Training Complex, S.D., Dec. 7, 2017. During the training, B-1s aircrews scanned the area and neutralized larger targets, while the Huey crew provided close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Ellsworth aircrews worked side-by-side with members of the 582nd Helicopter Group and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, during a joint-training exercise over the Powder River Training Complex from Dec. 4 to 8, 2017.

The exercise provided each unit an opportunity to integrate with Air Force Global Strike Command platforms and improve their strengths and capabilities in the field.

“It’s important that we train with other units, because it not only proves our abilities, but it shows the other squadrons what their proficiencies are,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Akerson, a special missions aviator assigned to the 37th Helicopter Squadron. “When we work together, it paints a picture of what we are capable of accomplishing.”

The combination of JTACs in the field created a unique opportunity for the units to conduct realistic training. However, while B-1 aircrews have had extensive training with JTACs in the past, it was a rare opportunity for those in the UH-1N Huey.

“What we are training on is working with high-speed JTACs,” said 1st Lt. Jesse Togawa, the chief of plans and programming assigned to the 37th Helicopter Squadron. “As a unit, we are tactically employing our aircraft in the ways that they need us to in a large-scale operation like this one. We don’t get many chances to work with JTACs, so this is a great opportunity for us.”

During the exercise, JTACs worked with aircrew from both the B-1 bomber and the UH-1N Huey helicopter, providing them with tactical information for targets in the field.

“This is the first time we have worked with the B-1s,” Togawa said. “The training objective in this operation is how to integrate with the other airframes, especially those that are widely different from the rotary-wing aircraft. It’s important to see what would happen in a real world situation with multiple entities working together seamlessly in the field.”

Although this is the Huey’s first time working with the B-1’s, the operation was able to provide experience to Ellsworth aircrew for future missions.

“This training was done because it gave us an opportunity to practice for our next deployment,” said Capt. Julien Adams, a weapon systems officer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron. “In training like this, it’s always great to have real JTAC’s instead of having an instructor role play as one in the field. It gave us more of a real-world feel to the training. Having actual radio communication with a guy on the ground was great.”

During the training, the JTAC switched back-and-forth between the different aircraft relaying targets to both of them simultaneously.

“My role during the operation was to confirm the JTACs and receive their targets, whether they were pre-planned, or targets of opportunity,” Adams explained. “From there, we would then coordinate the strike.”

He went on to explain the roles the different platforms used. While the B-1 to scanned the area and neutralize larger targets, the Huey provided close air support, utilizing their weapons to better allow them to take on individual targets.

According to the RAF JTACs, every operation is situational. With each scenario, the JTAC could need an entirely different platform to ensure the target is destroyed… Something a WSO knows all too well.

“It’s all task dependent on what’s happening on the ground,” Adams said. “This kind of exercise is definitely a viable training scenario we would like to see continued.”

These Agencies expect to work together again in upcoming Joint-trainings.

“Being the first time we have worked with the B-1, I have to say that it was extremely successful,” Akerson said. “We built relations with the B-1s [aircrew], the British forces and special operations forces. We are going to use those relations we built to accomplish these kinds of exercises going into the future.”