JSTARS hosts large joint-force exercise: integrates with Navy's P-8A for simulated war at sea

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons
  • 116th Air Control Wing
The Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing hosted the eighth annual Boars Nest Large Force Exercise bringing together more than 20 joint-force units and 55 different aircraft for aircrew training in a realistic threat environment, August 18-20.

Boars Nest provided the unique opportunity for aircrews from the 116th ACW, 461st ACW and Army JSTARS; flying the E-8C Joint STARS manned, battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform, to integrate with the Navy's newest marine patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon from Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN out of Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.

One of the chief planners for the exercise, Capt. Clayton Gibbs, an air battle manager with the 116th Air Control Wing, served as a liaison officer at the exercise air operation center based at The Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia.

"This exercise showed that the JSTARS manned platform and the P-8 provided an amazing capability to detect, locate and classify maritime targets when the two aircraft are linked in together working cooperatively," said Gibbs.

Broadening the integration between the ANG and naval air assets, two JSTARS liaison officers flew missions aboard the P-8, a first for the 116th ACW.

"I learned a lot of very useful information and was able to share a lot of information while flying with the P-8 Poseidon crew," said Lt. Col. Victor Ellis, liaison officer for the exercise from the 116th ACW.

"During the Boars Nest simulated war at sea, we used the complementary strengths of JSTARS and the P-8 to positively identify maritime vessels over a large area of responsibility and determine whether they were friendly, enemy, or neutral. Our timeline to successfully interdict enemy maritime targets was significantly shortened using our collective capability," said Ellis.

Adding another joint aspect to the maritime portion of the exercise, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG-31), flying F/A-18 Hornets out of Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, South Carolina acted as mission commander for all JSTARS controlled maritime strike packages.

"We don't normally train with the F-18's so this was another highlight for us," said Gibbs.

In all, this year's Boars Nest allowed Team JSTARS bring together joint assets including fifth-generation F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fighters for a large force exercise in keeping with one of the wing's long-term goals according to Gibbs.

"Our long-term goal is to tap into on-going exercises and resources available at The Air Dominance Center and take it to the next level with JSTARS integration," said Gibbs.

"Traditionally when a unit comes to The Air Dominance Center it's for more of an air-to-air type of environment. With exercises like Boars Nest, we bring the air-to-ground perspective and are able to do it more economically by tagging onto an existing exercise."

Members of the 116th ACW, 461st ACW, and Army JSTARS cohesively operate and maintain the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System E-8C aircraft.