GOOSE BAY, Newfoundland Labrador – U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Wing, based at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado, participated in North American Aerospace Defense Command's Arctic dynamic force employment operations at 5 Wing, Goose Bay, Royal Canadian Air Force, Sept. 20-23.
As a bi-national Canadian and American command, NORAD employs a network of space-based, aerial and ground-based sensors, air-to-air refueling tankers, and fighter aircraft, controlled by a sophisticated command and control network to deter, detect and defend against aerial threats that originate outside or within North American airspace.
According to NORAD, this dynamic force employment operation demonstrated the U.S.-Canadian readiness, air capability, and will to defend the United States and Canada from competitors who continue to test North American defenses.
U.S. Air Force aircraft supporting the operation alongside the COANG included a B-52 Stratofortress from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot, North Dakota, a Canadian CC-150 Polaris refueler aircraft from the 437th Transport Squadron, and CF-188 Hornet fighter jets from the 425th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
"The importance of performing these types of operations is to be able to adapt to ever-changing environments and prove that we can work with our Canadian partners seamlessly," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Gossner, commander, 120th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
"Operation Noble Defender allowed the 140th Wing to execute Agile Combat Employment in a more robust, aggressive manner," said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Mike Horner, 140th Maintenance Section. "Our past ACE events have been very transient in nature. However, Operation Noble Defender allowed us to leverage the ACE framework to deploy a small force of aircraft, equipment, and multi-capable Airmen and offer a persistent combat capability for the combatant commander."
The operation was designed to address any threats to North America while maintaining a heightened awareness of potential impacts and challenges of the novel coronavirus.
"COVID-19 has added an extra challenge to the mission by creating a quarantine and testing condition that we hadn't previously had to deal with," Gossner said.
Along with social-distancing restrictions in place at Goose Bay, members had to quarantine and test before deploying to ensure that the virus would not spread during vital training missions.
"In the end, we were able to accomplish the mission effectively," Gossner said.
Operation Noble Defender was the first full-scale use of the multi-capable Airmen concept by the 140th Wing.
"We deployed Airmen who were empowered to execute mission and functional areas that would require either a much larger force on the ground or the commander to accept unnecessary risk," said Horner. "Empowered Airmen, who are trained in multiple tasks and functional areas, reduce the overall mission risk and increase efficacy and lethality of the ACE team."
Exercises like this allow units to build upon previous experiences and mold them into a multitude of scenarios, allowing adaption to an ever-evolving combat environment.
"The 140th Wing demonstrated our ability to support NORAD-NORTHCOM (U.S. Northern Command) homeland defense and deterrence objectives with a small lethal ACE team, postured at a forward operating base," Horner said. "Missions like Operation Noble Defender complicate the efforts of adversarial nations to challenge the sovereignty of U.S. and partner nations."
"NORAD's Operation Noble Defender uses dynamic force employment with our Canadian partners to demonstrate the capability to defend North America from any location at any time," said U.S. Air Force Col. Micah Fesler, 140th Wing commander. "It's very difficult for an adversary to plan operations against an agile, dynamic defensive posture that can change on short notice."