Fighting Falcons from the 121st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (part of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to operate alongside Qatar Emiri Air Force Dassault Rafales and Mirage 2000s, Boeing AH-64E Apaches, and an AW-139 helicopter.
Sky Shield III is the third iteration of a regular bilateral defensive counter-air combat air patrol and combat search and rescue exercise. Sky Shield was designed to improve interoperability, to validate USAF and Qatar Emiri Air Force tactics, to strengthen security cooperation efforts between US AFCENT (Air Forces Central) and the QEAF and to practise and enhance their ability to defend regional airspace.
The exercise provided Qatari pilots with an opportunity to command large formations of US and QEAF aircraft and to use those formations to gain an aerial advantage against a simulated threat. The USAF supported the QEAF’s development of Joint Tactical Air Control TTPs (Tactics Techniques and Procedures) and to exploit its Link-16 capabilities. The exercise also allowed Qatari airmen to practice their combat search and rescue procedures.
For the USAF the exercise allowed the 378th AEW to demonstrate its agile combat employment capabilities, repositioning forces to new a location and rapidly generating combat airpower.
“Participating in events like Sky Shield allows us to evaluate our ability to quickly move to and operate out of different locations,” explained Lt. Col. Christopher Wilson, commander of the 121st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. “This exercise showed that we are able to shift forces quickly, successfully integrating with Qatari fighter operations and working together as a team to achieve a common goal in the defensive counter-air mission set.”
Brigadier General Robert Davis, commander of the 378th AEW said that: “Our success in Exercise Sky Shield III proves our increased ability to integrate with regional partners and rapidly project airpower across the region when needed.”
Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, 9th Air Force (AFCENT) commander said that: “Sky Shield III showcases our resolute partnership with the Qatar Emiri Air Force, Qatar plays a key role in the collective defense of this region. By strengthening our interoperability with the QEAF, we’re better able to deter threats to the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf.”
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