The U.S. Air Force 31st Operations Group (31st OG) conducted Exercise Operation Porcupine in Cincu, Romania, March 4, 2021. The exercise simulated a downed F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. The 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons, 510th Fighter Squadron and 606th Air Control Squadron all worked together to recover the pilot in a simulated contested environment. Operation Porcupine is an annual exercise that tests the capability of the different squadrons inside the 31st OG and their ability to work together. The downed pilot worked diligently to incorporate Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) methods with the help of a SERE specialist to evade opposing forces, while also making contact with the rescue team.
“Operation Porcupine is a joint exercise taking place in Romania this year, involving U.S. F-16s, HH-60s, and MQ9s as well as both U.S and Romanian JTACs [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers],” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Richard Bush, 56th Rescue Squadron pilot. “The scenario is an isolated F-16 pilot who had to eject from the aircraft. Our ultimate goal is to rescue that pilot before he is captured by enemy forces. There were definitely some things that arose that we had to work through on the fly, but overall I would call it a success and next year I imagine it will be the same. Our role in the HH-60’s is to provide a rescue asset to aid in the recovery of any isolated personnel, should that situation occur,” said Bush.
The U.S. Air Force 510th FS provided air support during the exercise while the 606th ACS provided Command and Control from the ground. The 56th and 57th RQS responded to the down pilot in an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter within the hour. The 56th RQS team landed the Pave Hawk as close to the pilot as possible, while ensuring the pilot was at a safe distance. The 57th RQS pararescuemen then moved in and found the pilot, who had a broken arm and pain in his back. The pararescuemen identified the downed pilot, escorted him to the helicopter and treated his injuries. Joint exercises like Operation Porcupine ensures the combat readiness of 31st OG in conducting and supporting worldwide air operations.