SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Pacific (HSCWSP) concluded the inaugural Phoenix Fire exercise, Oct. 21.
The training focused on littoral combat in a contested environment utilizing the Navy's Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE) on San Clemente Island, California.
The exercise grew out of HSC Wing Pacific's desire to increase the fidelity of training for its MH-60S Seahawk helicopter squadrons in anti-surface warfare (ASuW) with a focus on close air support (CAS). Cmdr. Frank Ingargiola, the commanding officer of HSCWSP, made the exact purpose of this exercise clear to his crew.
"Joint training is an absolute necessity in today's environment," Ingargiola said. "This exercise was designed to break down intra- and inter-service stove pipes in order to take advantage of one another's capabilities and mitigate HSC gaps through training. This exercise has accomplished that and so much more for our helicopter crews."
As the number of ground participants grew, Phoenix Fire increased in breadth to include the training and evaluation of three nations' personnel, six ground units, more than eight aviation platforms, two surface combatants, and the test, development, and evaluation (TD&E) of the MH-60S, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS).
Phoenix Fire lead planners from HSCWSP were Air Force Maj. Christopher "Habu" Walker, Navy Lt. David "Rage" Richardson, Navy Lt. Drew "Peacock" Kollmann, and Air Force Master Sgt. Tavis "TD" Delaney of the 116th Aviation Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) as the lead joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) for the exercise.
"The exercise began as a one-week focus on CAS at San Clemente Island," said Richardson. "Once we brought 'TD' on board, we were able to turn it into a two-week, incredibly dynamic exercise including more assets than seen even at Air Wing Fallon."
"Phoenix Fire is unique as the first HSC wing-hosted exercise in that its focus is rotary-wing employment," said Walker. "Real air crew and real JTACs working together in full scenario from wheels-up to wheels-down resulted in real successes and real failures. Debriefing to those successes and failures is where the learning occurred."
Phoenix Fire focused on the integration of multiple assets from all over the world. Participants included JTACs from the 116th ASOS, 6th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), Canadian Special Operations Forces (CANSOF), Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) Australia, and the U.S. Army's Special Forces Group (SFG).
HSC Wing Pacific MH-60S squadrons provided the bulk of the air support, but were frequently accompanied by MH-60R Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadrons (HSMs), F/A-18 Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFAs), Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFAs), Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (VXs), KC-130 Hercules Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadrons (VMGRs), and Royal Netherlands air force with F-35A Lightning II. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) provided surface combatant support with Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 with their MK VI patrol craft. These forces prosecuted land-based targets on the island, one expendable high-speed maneuverable surface target (HSMST), and multiple towed targets.
Training included live and simulated fires from rotary wing, fixed wing, and surface assets.
"As we shrink our footprint in the GWOT (global war on terrorism), military branches are again regressing to the misbelief that they alone can win the next war," said Delaney. "Incestuous, compartmentalized, single-service centric training is becoming the norm. It is extremely unlikely that the U.S. military will ever again act unilaterally. The importance of coalition forces training together in a littoral environment, while simultaneously combining surface, air, and ground elements cannot be stressed enough. Phoenix Fire and events like it will ensure that the hard-won lessons of the past are not lost."
Phoenix Fire represents the foundation of CAS mission development within the Navy's HSC community. Each participating entity received a unique training opportunity and helped to develop, foster, and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring safe and effective mission execution.
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