November 14, 2007 (by SSgt. Vann Miller) - Misawa fighter pilots focus on air superiority and air operations during the two-week long training exercise.
SSgt. John Swearingen, 35th AMXS, marshalls Capt. Jonathan Wentzel, 35th OSS, and his jet F-16C block 50 #90-0803 from 14th FS for a final inspection prior to take off during exercise Keen Sword on November 14th, 2007. [USAF photo by SrA. Robert Barnett]
Exercise Keen Sword, which began Nov. 6, gives pilots of various skill levels a chance to hone their skills against enemy air threats over the skies of Japan.
This joint and bilateral exercise simulates the defense of Japan using more than 60 military units from 24 locations
"This exercise adds another level of interaction beyond the 35th Fighter Wing and Northern Air Defense Command," said Capt. Jeremy Huffaker, 610th Air Control Flight commander. "As a theater-level command and control exercise, Keen Sword leverages the 610th's weapons control and air defense link capabilities to complete the 'big picture.'"
The exercise was originally to have more than 300 aircraft participating. But due to separate, unrelated and recent events involving the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self Defense Forces, a large numbers of participating aircraft have been temporarily grounded, according to Maj. Robert Petty, 14th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations.
The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the defense of this area in the Pacific region, according to Major Petty.
"Each mission is focused by the Keen Sword objectives as well as the individual flight objectives" the major said. "They relate to joint and bilateral interoperability for the defense of Japan and security of the region. During the initial phase of Keen Sword, we practice air-to-air tactics ranging from basic intercepts to advanced multi-ship combat tactics. The last days of Keen Sword will be dedicated to combined effort, large-force employment."
It takes a certain level of skill for pilots to qualify for the training. Every pilot schedule for a Keen Sword mission has been properly trained and equipped for the safe and professional conduct of the mission, said Major Petty.
Some of the difficulties found in the training aren't about flying surprisingly. They're the command and control infrastructure, as well as the language and cultural differences, said the major.
Overcoming challenges is what makes this training so valuable according to one of the pilots.
"The opportunity to interact more directly with our host-nation counterparts is one of, if not, the single greatest benefit," Major Petty said.