Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircraft participated in “Brother’s Shield,” a Colombian Air Force led exercise, and in “UNITAS LXI,” an Ecuadorian Navy led exercise, in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility on Nov. 8.
This twofold mission began well before the B-52H crews took off that morning. There had been countless teleconferences and planning meetings to coordinate the combined training exercises between the U.S. Air Force and our partner nation’s militaries.
Brother’s Shield was the first mission to be completed celebrating the Colombian Air Forces 101st anniversary. The B-52H crews supported the Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter aircraft pilots in air-to-air interception training while developing interoperability capabilities in order to increase hemispheric security and regional stability under NATO standards between the U.S. and Colombia.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Angel Serna, 12th Air Force (Air Force Southern) Colombia desk officer, explained that the name of the exercise “Brother’s Shield” developed from the close relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the Colombian Air Force. During this training mission, the Colombian Kfirs flew in a formation with the U.S. Air Force B-52Hs in order to shield them from enemy combatants.
“Anytime we have the privilege to integrate with our allies in a fighter integration or naval exercise, we are excited,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Henry, 96th Bomb Squadron B-52H pilot and mission lead. “We identified a lot of similarities in the way that the Colombian’s conduct their intercept training, and working with the UNITAS exercise proved to be very beneficial as well. Further developing our tactics, techniques and procedures with the navy is always beneficial for us as an air player since this is not something we have the opportunity to train on a consistent basis with real time naval assets.”
UNITAS is an annual naval exercise conducted in the Atlantic and Pacific waters around Central and South America. The Ecuadorian Navy hosted this year’s exercise Nov. 2-11, with participants from eleven countries. The B-52 crews integrated and trained with joint forces for UNITAS to include the Ecuadorian Navy to provide a simulated dynamic targeting capability for naval forces.
“I haven’t worked with the Colombian or Ecuadorian militaries before, but anytime that we as a community have an opportunity to work with partner nations, we always learn a lot,” Henry said. “Colombia and Ecuador were very professional, and a lot of our lessons learned were developed from the planning stages.”