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Kunsan takes flight at Max Thunder

Staff Sgts. Christopher Conley and Bobby Reed, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanics, work on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea, April 21, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean air forces to defend South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Curry)

Staff Sgts. Christopher Conley and Bobby Reed, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanics, work on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea, April 21, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean air forces to defend South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Curry)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, to participate in exercise Max Thunder 15-1 April 10, 2015, at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea. Kunsan AB joined other U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and South Korean air force flying units to integrate with dissimilar aircraft and practice realistic combat scenarios as one large force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Curry)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, to participate in exercise Max Thunder 15-1 April 10, 2015, at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea. Kunsan AB joined other U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and South Korean air force flying units to integrate with dissimilar aircraft and practice realistic combat scenarios as one large force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Curry)

GWANGJU AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- Kunsan Air Base Airmen joined other members of the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and South Korean air force units at Gwangju Air Base for exercise Max Thunder 15-1, April 10-24.

"This is the seventh year of Max Thunder, and its core principles remain much the same today as when it began," said Col. Brian Carr, the 51st Fighter Wing vice commander and Max Thunder 15-1 deployed forces commander. "These intricate scenarios continue to focus on the combined and joint integration of air power across many disciplines while enhancing the capability of (South Korea) and U.S. flying units to conduct combat air operations together."

Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled flying exercise held twice per year and is the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. This latest exercise included more than 750 U.S. personnel, approximately 170 of those hailing from Kunsan AB.

"This iteration of Max Thunder was a great opportunity for Wolf Pack Airmen to work alongside our fellow Air Force, Marine and (South Korea) counterparts at an unfamiliar base," said Col. Ken "Wolf" Ekman, the 8th FW commander. "Practicing realistic combat scenarios in a different environment not only sharpens our own capabilities, but makes us stronger as a combined force. This ultimately enhances the alliance's ability to fight tonight."

A major objective of this large-scale employment exercise involved increasing U.S. and South Korea interoperability with dissimilar aircraft, enabling aircrew members to be battle ready for any potential situation.

"This was a golden opportunity to mission plan together and to better understand each other's capabilities," said Lt. Col. Elika Bowmer, the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225 commanding officer. "Putting all these units in one place and having face-to-face conversations forces us to break down communication barriers and exchange ideas, making us more tactically fit to counter any threats."

While Max Thunder exercises generally aim to strengthen interoperability between U.S. and South Korea airpower assets, a particular goal for this exercise was to increase combined command and control, and intelligence coordination.

"This was the first time we co-located our U.S. and (South Korea) exercise staff intel representatives, and this integration had an extremely positive impact on our exercise scenarios," said Maj. Erik Axt, the 7th Air Force chief of training and Max Thunder 15-1 exercise director. "We were able to plan and execute more sorties than at any previous Max Thunder, which provided ample training opportunities for our pilots to practice combined operations."

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