U.S. pilots plant SEAD with Turkish counterparts

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • Anatolian Falcon 2012 Public Affairs
The Turkish and U.S. air forces continue to combine their air assets and share tactics in large-force employments during Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012 here March 5-16.

During LFE exercises, units oftentimes take advantage of the high number of aircraft participating to test mass communication efforts, but the 480th Fighter Squadron pilots from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, are sharing suppression-of-enemy-air-defenses tactics with their Turkish counterparts.

SEAD, the 480th FS's specialty, is any action taken to deter enemy surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery. The objective is not the destruction of the ground-based threats but to subdue those threats until an air mission is complete.

"Our enemies know some of the capabilities of SEAD teams," said Capt. David Dubel, a 480th FS pilot. "The presence of a SEAD team is sometimes enough in itself to make our enemies flee and allow us to complete whatever mission we're on."

For Anatolian Falcon 2012, each air mission has an objective such as the destruction of a plotted target or the defeat of enemy aircraft. Mission planners assign groups of aircraft-specific tasks, either offensive counter air, SEAD or ground attack.

Both nations employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multi-faceted fighter aircraft that can combat threats in the air or on the ground. Turkish and U.S. military units train differently, and the various functions of the F-16 can lead pilots to specialize in or understand unique perspectives of the aircraft.

Large-scale exercises allow the NATO allies to share and build upon proven tactics and techniques. For the 480th FS, sharing their SEAD tactics with the Turkish air force helps both prepare for real combat.

"We're expecting to be targeted -- that's our job," Dubel said. "We have a lot of tactics to defend against those threats. There are different tactics as to whether the enemy is just looking at us, have a lock on us or have actually fired a missile.

"The (ground attack) mission is to get 100 percent bombs on target," he continued, "and SEAD's mission is to get 100 percent of the (ground attackers) home."

An exercise-evaluation team is on site to test the SEAD teams' capabilities to safeguard the ground-attack aircraft. The team members of the Multinational Aircrew Electronic Warfare Tactics Facility, also known as Polygone, use a mobile surface-to-air missile radar system to target and "destroy" the exercise aircraft.

The system forces the pilots to change their plans en-route, said Jack Graham, a radar technician. Once the technicians switch the system to the radar or active mode, it emits a signal. The signal alerts the pilots to the radar's presence. The pilots then must identify the threat, assess the risks, attack the new threat or avoid the area all together.

Graham said he can mask the radar's location by switching off the detection system. Since the radar is mobile, the team can move to different locations as directed by the mission planners. As Anatolian Falcon 2012 continues, the location or frequency of attacks change to strain the SEAD capabilities of the Turkish and American pilots.

"We keep the pilots on their toes so they're always prepared for the real event," he said. "As long as we keep them on their toes, we're doing a good job."

Dubel said some of the exercise scenarios are relatively calm until an unlocated surface-to-air missile system begins broadcasting a frequency.

"Our job is to sniff out the SAM systems and change the game plan," Dubel said. "We don't want to lose any of our players, which in the real world would be our lives."