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Falcon Shield strengthens coalition’s air defense

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates led an annual exercise for allied partners to test and improve the synergy of air and missile defense capabilities with U.S. planning support from the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center.

The joint coalition of eight countries, including UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, United Kingdom, France, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army forces, participated in the three-week, multilateral Falcon Shield exercise from Sept. 8 to 26.

“This is the premier integrated air and missile defense exercise in the region,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Cara Fitzgerald, Air Warfare Center ground control intercept instructor. “It simulates a combined air operations center, complete with real-world command and control structures, and information control centers.”

Participants also train and coordinate closely together in a central “battle lab” location. The battle lab requires a trained simulations officer to carefully integrate all of the simulation equipment with a team of contractors and tools.

“The battle lab replicates the same capabilities that a soldier, Airman or sailor uses on a daily basis for real world operations in the CAOC,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Westerman, AAWC IAMD director.

The simulated experience allowed participants to execute specific objectives to improve overall interoperability.

“The exercise provides participants with experimental injects which test their ability to work together to identify means of communication, rules of engagement and leverage one another’s theater air and ground structures to efficiently utilize the Joint Kill Chain,” Fitzgerald said.

This allows the teams to practice quick responses with efficiency in eliminating threats to one’s own or friendly assets, according to Fitzgerald.

“This is my second year supporting Falcon Shield while assigned to the AFCENT Air Warfare Center,” said Fitzgerald. “Each year I have been impressed by participants’ engagement with the scenario and the lessons they discuss in debrief. The exercise demonstrates each countries commitment to strengthening regional defense and displays our resolve to work together.”

The sixty participants can take the lessons learned throughout the exercise back to their units as well.

“Falcon Shield is extremely rewarding,” said Westerman. “Observers are able to see the participants interact with one another in a team atmosphere, think critically about the interaction between ground-based air defense and pilots conducting defensive counter-air and make decisions during the planning phase that they can implement at home.”

The teams gain camaraderie, foster international relationships, as well as hones skills to strengthen the lethality and defensive capability of each other.