Pacific Skies exercise

Exercises involving different military services – one party has to take charge

Exercises involving different military services – one party has to take charge

Reading time:

Joint operations planning is a critical step in ensuring optimum use of the different services’ resources. But how does that actually take place?

A man wearing a uniform is sitting in front of several screens.

The Deployable Control and Reporting Center of the German Air Force in Schönewalde can be used as a headquarters for joint operations conducted with other military services.

Bundeswehr/Johannes Heyn

The first thing done in exercises such as this year’s Rimpac exercise near Hawaii is to establish a joint headquarters. Experts from the Army, Air Force and Navy jointly define strategic objectives and analyze tactical requirements in order to plan necessary measures. The tasks performed at a joint headquarters include preparing the Air Tasking Order (ATO), i.e. detailed documents for every single day of combat that describe the tasks and responsibilities of the individual pilots and aircrews during the air operations to be conducted.

Interoperability and integration

Depending on the focus of the suboperation to be carried out, one service assumes command and the other services support it by providing elements and capabilities. In the Pacific region with its vast expanse of water, the main focus is on naval operations. During these, the German Air Force protects naval forces against airborne attacks. 

A key element of cooperation during the exercise is interoperability between the different branches. During Rimpac, equipment, communication systems and procedures are organized in such a manner that they work smoothly together. Communication must be ensured, for example, between a USUnited States-American F-35 aircraft and a German frigate, or between a Eurofighter aircraft and a forward air controller of the infantry of the USUnited States (United States) Marine Corps. 

Joint command and control structures

Any operation – whether aerial, naval or ground-based – is commanded by a mission commander in the rank of General. Air Force and Navy work together, for example, when air traffic controllers are employed on board a frigate to coordinate air attacks and operational flights.

by Thomas Skiba