It is uncertain if the fall football classics between the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy will take place this fall to determine who is awarded the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, but this month such inter-service rivalries were put aside as the Air Force and Navy performed a joint exercise in the Black Sea. It focused on realistic integration, operation and communication between surface warships and air assets to protect the maritime domain.

The training mission occurred in international waters and airspace within the Black Sea and was confirmed by the U.S. 6th Fleet. This recent drill, which took place on Sunday, was not announced in advance—and that fact caused some curiosity among online flight trackers who started observing multiple military aircraft The Aviationist reported.  

The exercise was centered around the USS Porter (DDG-78), an Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, and included a P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from Patrol Squadron VP-47, four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, KC-135 Stratotankers from the 100th Aerial Refueling wing, Mildenhall, England, and an MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2, Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland.

This recent U.S. Air Force/Navy joint service exercise follows similar drills conducted by the Russian navy in the region in recent months.

“With over 90 percent of the global economy and digital communication traveling via the world’s oceans, protecting the maritime domain has never been more important,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. “Integrating with U.S. Air Force Europe during this training mission enabled us to conduct realistic and relevant training to reinforce U.S. resolve at sea in the Black Sea region.”

Joint training missions are often described as being vital to the readiness of U.S. military forces and demonstrate their ability to integrate platforms across multiple domains. Participating units conducted training scenarios that included tactical maneuvering and communications. 

The purpose of this training event was to exercise command and control in a joint training environment with our U.S. Air Force brothers and sisters to increase our tactical proficiency, and Porter’s crew did just that,” added Cmdr. Craig Trent, USS Porter’s commanding officer. “This training enabled us to continue to build on our combined capability to quickly and effectively respond to any threats in the complex maritime environment.

The Aviationist also reported the F-16s that took part in the drills “were flying with live air-to-air ordnance, which is not usual during training. The live missiles could be identified in the photos by the yellow and brown bands, for the live warhead and the live rocket motor, respectively.” That site added that all four of the F-16 jets were each armed with two AIM-120C/D AMRAAMs, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, two 370-gallon external fuel tanks and the AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod.

The crew of the USS Porter as well as the P-8A Poseidon have had a busy couple of weeks. 

The destroyer and the aircraft from Patrol Squadron VP-47 have been operating in the Black Sea following participation in the twentieth iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, an annual event co-hosted by the United States and Ukraine involving more than two thousand personnel from Bulgaria, Georgia, Norway, Romania, Spain and Turkey. The multinational maritime exercise is designed to enhance interoperability among participating nations and strengthen regional security in the Black Sea. 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. 

Image: Reuters

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