Robins location, operation instrumental to multi-service exercise

  • Published
  • By Faye Banks-Anderson
  • Robins Public Affairs
It doesn't happen often but when it does, it's invaluable.

Such was the case last week when the Iron Triad sat poised and ready for action on the Team Joint STARS flight line here.

The triad - which includes the Joint STARS E-8C, the AWACS E-3 and the Rivet Joint RC-135 aircraft - were at Robins Dec. 12 preparing for the Composite Unit Training exercise last this week off the east coast with its sister services, the Marines and the Navy.

"It's a big event at Robins, especially for TEAM JSTARS and Robins Air Force Base as the sole location of the E-8C Joint STARS to work with Rivet Joint and AWACS in sea trials for the George H. Bush Carrier Group," said Col. Stephen Melton, 116th Air Control Wing vice wing commander.

"It's really exciting for us," he added. "We have a new capability with the radar which allows us to track surface movements of various vessels and relay that for this exercise to both our airborne partners and carrier battle group on the surface."

Col. Bill Gould, 461st Air Control Wing vice commander, agreed.

"This is a unique opportunity," he said. "We don't really get these kinds of aircraft together anywhere in the United States outside of Nellis Air Force Base (Nevada) for a major exercise.

"The fact that it's an east coast exercise going on allows all three of these unique strategic assets on one ramp at the same time," said Gould.

This coordinated exercise is able to provide both surface and air threats, and to help the units be worldwide certified for these Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft.

"It's a rare opportunity for us to bring these three C2ISR assets together, working with the carrier battle group, to test our command and control between our platforms ... and allows us to test our air and sea battle tactics and capabilities," Melton said.

"It's an excellent opportunity for the 116th and our partners, the 461st, to work together with crews from both organizations taking advantage of this rare training opportunity."

Another plus for the aircraft staging out of Robins, is that no refueling resources are needed.

Gould explained that since this AWACS is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and the Rivet Joint is out of Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., air refueling assets would normally be required to fly these missions round robin from their home stations to get to the east coast exercise location.

"By us staging them here at Robins, we're able to eliminate that pressure for the tanker fleet right now in the Air Force because they're in high demand overseas with our ongoing operations."