August 20, 2009 (by SSgt. John Gordinier) - Shaw Air Force Base Airmen joined volunteers of the South Carolina wing of the Civil Air Patrol in Exercise Fertile Keynote on August 11th.
Alert F-16s are readied to roll during an alert mission exercise on August 11th, 2009 at Shaw AFB. The exercise provided training for the alert maintenance crew and pilots for real-world situations. [USAF photo by SSgt. John Gordinier]
The training exercise occurs five to six times per month and gives 20th Fighter Wing alert Airmen experience with different scenarios, said Maj. Benjamin Price, the 20th FW alert force director of operations.
"The Civil Air Patrol (fly) scenarios, so we can practice with a real target. The training we get from this exercise is crucial, and it's training we can't get unless we actually go up in the air and fly against small, general aviation aircraft," he said.
alert forces ensures a rapid response to real-world situations, Major Price explained. Shaw AFB Airmen provide assistance for possible threats in the Eastern Air Defense Sector, so if a plane is not cooperating with local air traffic control instructions, or an adverse situation occurs, Shaw AFB pilots take to the sky to defuse and resolve the situation.
The alert force is manned by many maintainers and pilots 24/7/365, Major Price said. Airmen here ensure a very fast response time when called upon to deal with potential threats. When the loudspeaker shouts, "Scramble, scramble, scramble," all Airmen immediately drop what they're doing and run out to the aircraft to get them up in the air as fast as possible.
Each scenario is different, said Capt. Joe Palen, the 20th FW air sovereignty alert assistant director of operations. For this exercise, the Civil Air Patrol flies a plane, which simulates it is not responding to air traffic control. Shaw AFB pilots quickly intercept the plane, investigate, get the tail number, and try to establish contact. The actions pilots take depend upon the circumstances.
"The exercise ended with our fighters intercepting the simulated wayward aircraft and escorting it to a local airport," Captain Palen said. "This training is critical for real-world, slow-mover intercept. Typically, an F-16 (Fighting Falcon) only sees airspeeds of 100 knots twice per sortie, on takeoff and landing roll, so to have the opportunity to intercept and direct slow-moving aircraft adds an element of realism we can't generate ourselves."
The exercise provides Airmen with the training they need to be prepared.
"I am extremely pleased with the training we received today," said Lt. Col. Michael Richardson, the 20th FW air sovereignty alert commander. "Our entire team proved again how well they can execute a quick, effective and safe scramble launch with no warning. Once airborne, our pilots demonstrated highly efficient skills to determine the nature of the situation and resolve it using correct procedures and airborne maneuvers.
"With the high-fidelity training we get in Fertile Keynote exercises, I can assure you that Shaw is ready and able to execute the ASA mission around the clock," Colonel Richardson concluded. "We continue a vigilant watch, and we ensure the security of the airspace over and around the Southeastern United States."