Category Archives: Military Exercises

Foreign military training in the United States?

The South Dakota National Guard’s 28th annual Golden Coyote training exercise, which began on June 9 in Rapid City and the southern Black Hills, includes military contingents from Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Suriname, and the U.K.

The two-week training exercise, “in a realistic training environment,” according to the Defense Department, supports both overseas contingency operations and homeland defense.  There are also 37 units representing 17 states participating in Golden Coyote, and I suppose for them, it is preparation for combat.  The Rapid City Journal reports that Golden Coyote “re-create the stress of combat and mixture of civilian, tourist and wildlife populations soldiers encounter in war theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan, all while training with foreign soldiers.”

It used to be quite rare and even noteworthy when foreign military training took place on American soil.  Of course there were always exceptions, like regular German Air Force pilot training in the American southwest, and aviation training associated with the Red Flag exercise series has come to include regular NATO and U.S. allied participants.  In July, as an example, F-16 from the United Arab Emirates and KFIRs from Colombia will participate in Red Flag 12-4 in Nevada.

So do they really mean homeland defense when they describe one of the training objectives of Golden Coyote?  Do they mean that somehow it is important to have multinational partners, even Canada, to train for the military defense of the United States?

I’m agnostic one way or another on this, but it seems to me that this entire subject, bearing upon command and sovereignty and foreign policies, bears greater scrutiny.

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Ready or not, weather or not

News from Eager Lion 12, the 12,000 strong, 19 nation military exercise being held in Jordan — nothing to do with Syria or Iran, say authorities:  A day of training, the Jordan Times reports, has been canceled because of sandstorms.

It isn’t the only military exercise to be halted on a count of weather: In the nation’s capital, heavy rain and thunderstorms last night halted an air defense exercise by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

May 22 sandstorms in Jordan lead to cancellation of Eager Lion training. Source: Jordan Times

NORAD says that exercise Falcon Virgo is scheduled to take place between 3-5 a.m., will take place on Thursday night instead.

I don’t know whether I’m being an idiot or not — okay, hold the snark — but don’t we want our military to barrel its way through bad weather, especially in an exercise, so that they might be ready to improvise if the real thing came?  Just asking…

Eager Lion Now Supplants Bright Star as Largest U.S. Exercise in Middle East

The details emerging about the Eager Lion 12 military exercise in Jordan are almost as scary as the speculation circulating in the press about a Syria (or Iran) mission preparation.  Jordan and the United States continue to insist that the exercise has no connection with any real-world events.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) now says that the exercise is “the largest annual exercise in the Central Command area of operations,” supplanting Bright Star, the exercise series previously conducted in Egypt.  I guess the masters of war planning have a lot of faith in the stability and resilience of the Jordanian government, come to think of it, just like they did about Egypt.

Eager Lion, which most press reports refer to as including 17 participants, actually includes 19 participants, according to CENTCOM.   They include Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.  The exercise is touted as “building relationships,” but the 19 nations weren’t named until May 15th: I suppose it’s more like a furtive affair than a relationship.  It’s interesting to note that Turkey, previously reported as participating, evidently is not; and that Iraq is there.

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit offload from a Navy Landing Craft Utility vessel at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in Aqaba, May 2, 2012, to begin their participation in Exercise Eager Lion 12. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein)

And though special operations is the undeniable focus, more than 1,000 U.S. Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit stormed ashore – okay maybe didn’t storm, but landed – in a display of amphibious readiness.  What surprised me in the belated announcement of the Marines May 2nd landing is that the Marine Corps casually referred to the augmented battalion and its Iowa Jima assault ship as the “forward-deployed crisis response force.”

I didn’t even know that there was such a crisis response force, and nothing was reported in the news media when it was deployed in March.

The on-scene U.S. commander for Eager Lion 12 is Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, who in his day job is Commander Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and for the exercise is Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Spartan (CJTF Spartan).  Tovo is one of the most talented officers in our Army’s senior ranks and clearly is one of our nation’s Special Operations Forces’ superstars,” CIA Director David Petraeus said in an email to the Tampa Tribune.  There’s an odd hit job on Tovo on Examiner.com, as if anything is actually known about the man.

Ardent Sentry 12: Homeland Defense Not So Ardent to Say Much

This Wednesday, May 2nd, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) kicks off its annual Ardent Sentry exercise, one of the largest homeland defense events, combining military support for disasters and counter-terrorism.

Ardent Sentries no doubt, those post 9/11 war planners in Colorado Springs, but they are awfully shy ones.  While the United States openly picks a fight with China through significant force structure changes in the Pacific and military exercises galore; while the U.S. tinkers with its Persian Gulf readiness and posture preparing for war with Iran, back home, Ardent Sentry 2012 (AS 12) is portrayed as a hurricane disaster preparedness drill so as to not antagonize the American public.

The first Ardent Sentry exercise was held in 2004, and like previous year’s exercises, this one is complex and multi-faceted, with both unclassified and Top Secret compartmented portions, including the increasingly secret and quiet activities with Mexican authorities.

The central activity of AS 12 is a large-scale command post exercise (CPX) focusing on NORTHCOM battlestaff preparedness and practice of war plans.  But the Joint Staff sanctioned “Tier I” event also includes:

  • Positive Response 12-1, a Joint Chiefs of Staff highly classified regular mobilization and planning exercise.
  • Canada Command exercises Staunch Maple 2012 (SM 12) and Frontier Sentinel (FS 12).  Canada Command is the new post 9/11 Canadian command equivalent to NORTHCOM.
  • Vigilant Guard-Oregon (VG-OR), one of a series of four annual National Guard exercises that this year will be regional and tactically focused, practicing the ‘Dual Status Commander’ program, the unheralded erosion of State control over state militias.
  • Nuclear Weapons Accident/Incident Exercise (NUWAIX) supported by Defense Threat Reduction Agency and focused on Air Force Global Strike Command accident response and emergency military contingencies at Minot AFB, North Dakota.
  • Amalgam Mako, a maritime mining exercise run concurrently with the Canadian Frontier Sentinel in northeast waters off Nova Scotia and extending to Connecticut.
  • Arctic Edge 12 (AE 12), a Joint Task Force Alaska exercise focused on military contingencies in Alaska and the Arctic, a region recently folded into NORTHCOM’s battlefield.
  • A Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio force protection and counter-terrorism exercise, including  scenarios “ranging from simulated terrorist attacks to a natural disaster with mass casualties.”

As part of Ardent Sentry, something called Task Force 51 (Fifth Army, U.S. Army North) will also exercise with Mexican security authorities, ostensibly practicing hurricane preparedness – on the border.  In the Texas-based scenario, a hurricane first makes landfall near Brownsville, blows back out to the Gulf and then hits the upper Texas coast, wreaking major damage to infrastructure.  Incident command posts will operate in Houston and San Antonio and in Alexandria, La, and include the Civil Air Patrol.  With its new Advanced Digital Reconnaissance Systems (ADRS), CAP is now an intelligence collector for homeland defense; everyone into the act!

Meanwhile, ARNORTH liaison officers posted to Mexican IV Military Region and the 8th Military Zone will skulk about with their Mexican counterparts.

Though Ardent Sentry is coinciding with National Level Exercise 2012 (NLE 2012), the Department of Homeland Security sponsored preparedness exercise involving interagency, State, and local agencies, it is decidedly not a part of NLE 12.  AS 12 is also not a sanctioned National Exercise Program (NEP) recognized event, and as such, NORTHCOM decides interagency participation.

In the official press release from NORTHCOM and NORAD announcing Ardent Sentry 2012, the combined commands merely say that the exercise will focus on “Defense Support of Civil Authorities, May 2 – 9, 2012.”

Field training events, it says, will take place in North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Alaska, Connecticut and Nova Scotia and involve United States and Canadian military units.  The Vigilant Guard exercise – not named in the press release – is described as “the Oregon National Guard will work with state and local officials to respond to numerous weather-related and security events.”  The Amalgam Mako/Frontier Sentinel exercise – also unnamed – is described as merely involving “a security related event.”

Nowhere in the press release is there mention of Mexico, even though the NORTHCOM commander told Congress in March that Ardent Sentry 12 would be the first time the U.S. and Mexico participated in the joint exercise.

Terrorist attacks, “red” shipping approaching the east coast, border control, support to State and local police, domestic intelligence collection, destruction of critical infrastructure, activation of the mobile command center: NORTHCOM seems incapable of any kind of transparency.  You could, of course, watch it all on ENN, the Exercise News Network, where the Joint Coalition Warfighting Center will produce simulated commercial press (video, audio, and print) response to the events, honing the ability to communicate with a simulated American public.

Operation Chimichanga practices North Korean strike?

Three B-1 bombers from the 37th Bomb Squadron, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota took off in the early hours of April 4 on a ten-hour bombing mission to Fort Yukon, Alaska as part of a complex long-range Strategic Command “anti-access” bombing mission dubbed Operation Chimichanga.

The exercise, starting with a simulated warning order to bomb targets in a classified country, included multiple live fly participants and command and control elements, finishing with battle damage assessment and an after action report.

Participants included F-22 Raptors and E-3 AWAC command and control aircraft assigned to the Alaskan 3rd Wing, along with F-16s from Misawa AB, Japan, and KC-135 aerial refuelers from Eielson AFB, Alaska.

F-22s and F-16s escorted the B-1s “into an anti-access target area,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th Fighter Squadron commander.

It was also the first time that increment 3.1, an air-to-ground bombing software upgrade was used on F-22’s, which also acted as follow-on forces, to assess B-1 bomb damage at the target and follow with an immediate restrike.

The B-1 bombers were also carrying new long-range radar evading AGM-158 joint air-surface standoff missile (JASSMs).

North Korea or Iran, take your pick.

Ten air forces meet in Bahrain to do what?

Front page Bahrain-based Gulf Daily News today: The largest air exercise since 1988, involving 10 nations — Bahrain, the United States, plus Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan?

Is there so much surplus military money to throw around that now that the Iraq war is over, these large exercises are coming back with a vengeance?  Or is there some desire to send messages to countries like Iran that everyone’s ready?

And where’s Iraq in this?  Some Arab spring, eh?

[Note: Updated April 9, 2012:  The exercise is called “Initial Link.”]

Gulf Daily News frontpage, Sunday, April 8, 2012.

U.S.-Israel military exercise quietly underway

I added the classified Sixth Fleet sponsored exercise Noble Dina 12 exercise to my list of military exercises today.  This year’s U.S.-Israel exercise runs from March 26-April 5.

The exercise, ongoing since at least 1999, focuses on submarine and anti-submarine warfare in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  Greece has been a participant since last year, and the exercise, according to the Greek press, is based out of Souda Bay naval base on Crete.

Last year, Noble Dina 11 took place from April 3-14 and included reportedly included two Greek submarines and four Greek Air Force F-16 Block 52 fighters.  According to the U.S. Military Sealift Command, during last year’s exercise fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha conducted astern refueling with two Israeli ships, while Maritime Prepositioning Force ship USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat served as a “high-value unit” for the surface action group operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, presumably a simulated target.

According to defencenet.gr and the Greek Reporter, the U.S., Greece, Israel exercise has all sorts of anti-Turkish political messaging involved.  Defencenet.gr says that the scenario for Noble Dina this year from Crete to Haifa “bears great resemblance to the Turkish aeronautical forces in this particular military operation scenario.”

The Turkish press reports that the “first phase will take place near the island of Meis, a small island close to the southern Turkish district of Kaş, and south of Cyprus before proceeding to Israel’s Haifa port.”  It says that Greece was invited to the war games this year by Israel.