The 'Sundowners' of Composite Fighter Squadron (VFC) 111 put naval forces from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States to the test during an air defense exercise that kicked off UNITAS Sept. 20-22.
The United States and partner nations are conducting operations in the Atlantic Ocean and Western Caribbean through Sept. 28. UNITAS trains the participating forces in a variety of maritime scenarios to test command and control of forces at sea, while operating as a multinational force to provide the maximum opportunity to improve interoperability.
Shortly after departing Naval Air Station Key West, F-5N Freedom Fighter attack aircraft from VFC-111, one of the Navy's three dedicated adversary squadrons, tested the ship's air defense capabilities.
"This was a very important evolution as it was the first time the multinational ships were able to assemble at sea and work as a team to defend the task group from aerial threats," Capt. Ace VanWagoner, commander, Combined Task Group 138.20 said. "The adversary airplanes flew threatening approaches towards the task group and the ships were able to respond quickly and successfully defended themselves," he said.
Adversary squadrons provide a host of training scenarios to prepare ships and planes for many types of attacks they might encounter in actual combat.
"We provided adversary support using F-5 Tiger II jets," said Lt. Cmdr. Garth Olsen, operations officer for VFC-111. "Most of our missions were simulating enemy aircraft on high alert due to the amount of ship activity in our territorial waters. Towards the end of the exercise we became hostile and started simulating shooting down aircraft and launching simulated missiles at the ships using aircraft to simulate the missile profiles."
This year's Atlantic Phase will include a live-fire exercises and a Navy Standard Missile (SM-2) launch against remote control aerial targets launched from the flight deck of frigate, USS Underwood (FFG 36).
"While the overarching goal of the exercise is to develop and test command and control of forces at sea, training in this exercise will address the spectrum of maritime operations," Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet, Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris said.
"Specifically, there will be high-end warfare scenarios addressing electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and maritime interdiction operations," he said.
UNITAS develops and sustains relationships to improve the capacity of our partners' maritime forces. This annual exercise fosters friendly, mutual cooperation and understanding between participating navies. The participating ships have swapped crews as part of a subject matter expert exchange. USS Anzio (CG 68), the UNITAS flagship, embarked personnel from Peru, Brazil, Mexico, France and Canada.
Article by Commander Naval Air Force Reserve Public Affairs