The South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169 Fighter Wing recently deployed to Naval Air Station Fallon during the US Navy’s Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) workups to help prepare for its upcoming deployment next year. History was made with this deployment, as it is the “first time an Air Force squadron has been invited to participate in this sort of exercise,” according to Lt. Col. Akshai “Abu” Gandhi, commander of the 157 FS.
The Swamp Fox men and women worked alongside their Naval counterparts and enabled enhanced and integrated joint training in the skies over western Nevada. The 157 FS primarily focused on reactive SEAD which, as Lt. Col. Gandhi put it, is the “the bread and butter” of the specialized F-16 unit.
Reactive SEAD means that a blue force (in this case, the Navy air wing assets + Super Weasels) must respond to and neutralize emerging red threats, such as a mobile surface-to-air (SAM) or other enemy air defenses. This mission becomes increasingly important as integrated and mobile enemy air defenses are continuously proliferated worldwide.
This largely echoes the types of operations each unit will see downrange as it encounters hostile air defenses, and this training allows both services to benefit and learn from each other’s tactics and helps to build the knowledge base among the units involved. In today’s world of joint air operations utilizing many different assets from different services – and even coalition efforts with other countries – it is imperative to train like you fight, and no unit will go it alone.
Lt. Col. Gandhi says, “We’ve had the opportunity to integrate our folks with naval aviation and we’ve had some great success helping them increase their lethality and survivability, which is something that is going to be critical as enemy air defenses have become increasingly more sophisticated over time.”
It’s not the first time that the Swamp Fox and the Navy have worked together, but relationships are built and reinforced when units are able to train together on this scale, says CVW-1 Commander Capt. William Ewald. He continues by saying, “If we meet the 157 FS downrange we’re going to be successful.”
We’d like to congratulate both Air Wing One and the 169 FW on a job well done!