RAF MILDENHALL, U.K.-- Members from the MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron, CV-22B Osprey assigned to the 7th Special Operation Squadron, and Special Tactics Airmen from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, conducted an airborne operation April 9, 2020, over the North Sea to test and evaluate three core mission sets; global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery.
“We simulated an unlucky jet scenario where an F-16 was shot down over the water,” said a U.S. Air Force Capt., 321st Special Tactics Squadron lead evaluator during the mission. “We then had to launch the alert force of pararescuemen, combat controllers and special reconnaissance personnel who were prepared to go jump into an area where they wouldn't otherwise have the ability to get into.”
The 352 SOW is U.S. Special Operation Command Europe’s aviation component and the only U.S. Air Force special operations unit in the European theatre. Forward presence through SOCEUR enables collective efforts with NATO allies and partners to execute specialized airpower and air-ground integration.
“This scenario mirrors potential SOCEUR and European Command taskings. Special tactics provide global access, precision strike, and rescue capability, and the MC-130J and CV22 Osprey provide the speed and long legs to get there and get our forces out expeditiously,” said the weapons and tactics chief.
During the training, members from the 352 SOW were given a notional task from special operation task force and a limited strike window to suit up, equip the aircraft and provide overwater personnel recovery support to the downed pilot. But before the recovery team could be dispatched, the air space had to be safely cleared for movement.
“Embedded within the scenario was a notional precision strike mission accomplished by leveraging our joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) to be able to eliminate any threats to the MC-130 or the CV-22 that would be going in to pick up the isolated person,” said the lead evaluator.
Training like this provides members with familiarity on the requirements and tools needed to best accomplish their mission essential tasks while simultaneously communicating between aircraft and teams on the ground to execute airborne operations in a potential threat environment.
Using the appropriate communication channels, the command and control element delivered the MC-130J to employ boat packages and personnel into the negative 43 degrees North Sea, in order to recover the isolated personnel floating in the water.
“We employed our boats in the water first and then we conducted a military free-fall landing close to the boats. From there, the rescue element was able to get the boats relatively quickly and immediately begin treating the patient for hypothermia and additional injuries expected after an ejection,” said the weapons and tactics chief. “Once that was complete, we were able to launch a CV-22B Osprey, from the mission support site, to do a hoist of the recovery element out of the water with the isolated personnel and extract them,” he finished.
Special Tactics Airmen assigned to the 321 STS provide a rapidly-deployable force capable of establishing and providing positive control of air-to-ground interface during special operations or conventional missions. Through routine training with special tactics operators, the units can hone their airborne operations together in a controlled environment while maintaining readiness to deploy, train, and fight as one force.
“This was a very successful mission,” said the lead evaluator. “Having the dedicated personnel and equipment coupled with the appropriate level of training ensures our force is ready to deploy at a moment's notice, in the event, the geographical combatant commander or the Secretary of Defense orders us to go forward and execute.”