Royal Air Force Regiment personnel have been controlling United States F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft in an Air-Land Integration exercise in the US, known as Exercise EAGLE LIGHTNING. The Exercise was designed to hone the skills of the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Signallers who are the ground troops that direct combat aircraft engaged in close air support from forwarding locations. The Controllers and Signallers deployed to the US Naval Air Warfare Development Centre in Nevada to train on the Close Air Support ranges alongside their US counterparts.
“The RAF’s Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Signallers are highly trained force elements who support RAF and Joint operations worldwide. Working and training alongside our US allies allows us to exchange knowledge and ensure we can operate together as part of NATO,” Flight Sergeant Tunstead Naval Air Warfare Development Centre said.
“Deploying to the US gives the JTACs exposure to controlling foreign aircraft. Each JTAC had to ensure that they can safely deconflict up to 8 aircraft in the stack at any one time whilst integrating rotary-wing and indirect fires to achieve the Ground Commander’s intent. The US offers a unique opportunity to work within a complex battlespace against some highly sophisticated threats, something that is hard to replicate in the UK due to the size of the training areas,” Flight Lieutenant Horstwood RAF Controller said.
During the two-week exercise, RAF Regiment Gunners carried out vital continuation training with the US F/A-18 Hornet. They conducted high-intensity controls to maintain their qualifications whilst developing and testing their skills in complex training scenarios. The RAF’s Air Land Integration Cell at RAF Coningsby has a close relationship with their US colleagues, Flight Sergeant Tunstead who is currently on a two-year exchange program with the Naval Air Warfare Development Centre.