US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin Enhances Combined Air Superiority Through Exercises
US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin Enhances Combined Air Superiority Through Exercises

US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin Enhances Combined Air Superiority Through Exercises

The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) Aviation Combat Element (ACE) participated in Exercises RAPTOR’S STRIKE 22 and DIAMOND STORM 22 alongside Australian Defence Force (ADF) members from May 02 – June 24. RAPTOR’S STRIKE 22 featured low altitude air defense (LAAD) interoperability and allowed USMC LAAD Marines from the Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38) detachment to integrate with their counterpart ADF forces in Adelaide, South Australia. MRF-D Marines worked closely with the 110th Air Defense Battery to enhance integrated air and missile defense. The exercise demonstrated a primary feature of force design 2030 concepts and expeditionary advanced base operations.

Air defense capabilities are a necessity for Marine Corps operations in the Indo-Pacific, and around the world. After several decades of competing in areas where friendly air superiority seemed nearly a guarantee, the operating environment changed. In this environment, air defense assets are critical and enable maneuver. Integrating allied air defense capabilities will further increase our ability to maintain freedom of maneuver. Following RAPTOR’S STRIKE 22, the MRF-D ACE shifted focus to supporting Exercise DIAMOND STORM 22 by providing aviation coordination and battlespace awareness to the allied exercise force.

“Working with 110 Battery was a valuable experience that allowed us to learn from each other, which strengthened a bond that will undoubtedly be passed to future MRF-D deployments,” said First Lieutenant Alexander Bazanos, the platoon commander for the MRF-D LAAD detachment.

“We will fight in defense of our allies and will operate in close alignment with them, from their territories, alongside their ships and aircraft, and in cooperative and even integrated formations on the ground,” provided General David Berger, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, in his 2019 planning guidance.

An FIM-92 Stinger missile shoots down an unmanned aerial system 2 nautical miles away during Fleet Battle Problem 22-1, March 20, 2022. The missile was fired from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). FBP 22-1 integrates naval capabilities to support special operations, provide defense ashore and at sea, and develop the use of unmanned underwater vehicles. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Brittney Vella)

DIAMOND STORM 22 was an Australian-led Air Warfare Instructor Course which incorporated some of Australia’s top pilots and special operations forces. In addition to providing battlespace awareness with the MACG Detachment, MRF-D supported the exercise with MV-22 lift, transportation, and maneuver. The Air Warfare Centre and 88 Squadron, equivalent to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron, put together a world class exercise that focuses on detailed integration of offensive air support, offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, fixed wing delivered close air support, assault support, and airborne command and control.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nicholas Longden and Lance Cpl. Romig Beley, both low altitude air defense gunner with the Air Combat Element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire a FIM-92 Stinger during Fleet Battle Problem 22-1, aboard amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), March 20, 2022. FBP 22-1 integrates naval capabilities to support special operations, provide defense ashore and at sea, and develop the use of unmanned underwater vehicles. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Brittney Vella)