PORTLAND AIR GUARD STATION, Ore. – Members of the U.S. Navy Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 10 joined up with the 123rd Fighter Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Wing to conduct ongoing familiarization training. More than seven coordinated training flights have been conducted between the two groups at Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon, throughout 2021.
This training allows participating aircrews to work alongside aircraft with differing capabilities to learn how to track and counter attacks from adversarial forces in various simulated scenarios.
“It’s like constantly putting a puzzle together to locate an adversary and stay with them,” said Lt. Daniel Cushman, P-8A Poseidon naval flight officer from CPRW-10.
The Poseidon, the Navy’s modernized patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and replacement to the P-3C Orion, is designed for a wide variety of maritime missions. Based on the Boeing 737, the P-8A is manned by three pilots, two naval flight officers and four enlisted sensor operators. Conversely, the 142nd Wing’s primary airframe is the F-15 Eagle, a tactical fighter aircraft designed to fly combat missions and maintain air superiority.
Flying missions together with CPRW-10, the fighters and reconnaissance aircraft have different capabilities, which allows the two groups to assume different roles, helping each component accomplish critical training requirements.
When playing as the adversary in a given scenario, the 123rd Fighter Squadron acts as a maritime strike platform. This allows P-8A aircrews to practice dynamic defensive tactics in a realistic environment effectively.
“Our primary mission is Anti-Submarine Warfare. We drop sonobuoys (devices designed to detect underwater sounds and transmit them via radio) to provide position, course, and speed information,” said Cushman. “We also can perform an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) role with our sensors onboard that leverage radar, cameras, and can exploit an RF (Radio Frequency) to accomplish that mission set.”
For CPRW-10, the training goal is to become comfortable operating in a joint environment and to provide realistic situations for the aircrew that mirrors what they may experience while deployed.
“The more we can understand each other when we need to, the better,” said Cushman.
Part of the training included the fighter squadron calling out specific distances between the aircraft so the aircrew could visualize safe maneuvers versus aggressive flying procedures they may experience from adversaries while conducting a mission.
“The desired training of our work with the P-8 [is] to familiarize the P-8 aircrew to what non-dangerous fighter escort activity looks like,” said Lt. Col. Joel Thesing, a pilot with the 123rd Fighter Squadron. “It’s important to teach the aircrews what normal ranges and escort procedures look like so they can easily identify non-normal or dangerous activities.”
“The training is realistic; we’re learning a lot and it helps to know what we’re going to see in the plane, ten miles out, [or] one mile out from an engagement,” Cushman recounted.
Familiarization training with different airframes and services proves to be a critical advantage in real-world situations.
“We train like we fight. Familiarization ideally would not happen in a real-world contingency situation. A real-world mission is when we should draw upon our familiarization training and employ with what we know,” said Thesing.