Military forces from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command wrapped up exercise Valiant Shield 2018, Sept. 23rd, around the Marianas Island Range Complex and on Guam.
Participants included the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), 15 surface ships, more than 160 aircraft and approximately 15,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps.
“The Marianas Island Range Complex is a premier training environment that allows the joint force a unique opportunity to come together and train side-by-side at the high end in an at-sea environment,” said exercise director Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer. “It’s extremely important. In any future conflict, no service will go alone. Any opportunity that we can come together to train as a joint force, makes us that much more lethal and capable.”
Valiant Shield is a U.S. only, biennial field training exercise aimed at ensuring the joint force is ready to conduct a wide range of combat operations.
VS-18 was postponed due to Typhoon Mangkhut. The units based out of Guam, as well as the visiting units, quickly adjusted their training exercise to a defense support of civil authorities mission. More than 3,000 personnel were dispatched to assist with clean up, deliver supplies and assist with utilities.
“The U.S. military is not a fair-weather force,” said Dwyer. “We’ll fight in any conditions; day or night. This is just real-world operational training for us. It has been great for the crews to adapt, overcome, plan and execute. I am incredibly proud of the joint force coming together.”
This year’s exercise was peppered with a few firsts. The Army attended for the first time this year as they led the Multi-Domain Task Force with the 17th Field Artillery Brigade.
Army Lt. Col. Joe Hansen, MDTF commander, said he’d developed three priorities in support of Valiant Shield; to validate and improve communication systems and architecture, facilitate and integrate artillery capabilities in the Indo-Pacific maritime environment, and inform and improve upon the multi-domain operational discussion.
The MDTF is at the piloting stages on the trajectory to operational use, but another series featured in this year’s exercise introduced a new shallow-mine capability update from previous iterations.
Following an Air Force and Marine Corps pairing from Valiant Shield 2016, this year the Air Force’s B-52 bombers of the 96th Bomb Squadron with the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft of Patrol Squadron Five (VP-5) deployed and assessed an updated Quickstrike precision mine outfit for the first time.
“In the past, the mines were dropped by gravity weapons, so the B-52s and bombers had to be low to meet their accuracy,” said Air Force Capt. Craig Quinnett, Quickstrike’s B-52 test lead. “With Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Quickstrike-extended range weapon we have the ability to deploy precision mines from a standoff role which gives us a huge capability.”
Valiant Shield concluded with a sink exercise, which provided the opportunity to find, fix, track, and finish a target at sea.
“SINKEX gives us that opportunity to do an end-to-end test of our joint capabilities,” said Dwyer. “It’s been incredible to watch the teams come together to become more capable and more lethal.”
During VS-18, U.S. forces exercised a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of joint forces. The range of capabilities included maritime security operations, amphibious operations, anti-submarine and air-defense exercises.
This is the seventh exercise in the Valiant Shield series that began in 2006.