Personnel with the U.S. Air Force's 116th Air Support Operations Squadron and the Australian Defense Force's Special Operations Command provide cover while waiting for extraction via a Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, from San Clemente Island, California, Oct. 13, 2016, during the first Phoenix Fire Exercise. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy
The U.S. Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Weapons School Pacific hosted exercise Phoenix Fire last week. Cmdr. Josh Fagan, executive officer for the weapons school, said the joint warfighting exercise ran until Sept. 22.
Last year’s Phoenix Fire was the inaugural exercise. Training focused on littoral combat in a contest environment, according to the weapons school, using the Navy’s Southern California Offshore Range on San Clemente Island, California. The exercise took place at the same location this year.
“[Phoenix Fire] is focused on integrating U.S. Navy helicopters into a realistic joint warfighting exercise,” said Fagan. “We conduct multi-domain operations with joint and international Special Operations Forces (SOF), fixed-wing strike aircraft, ISR platforms, as well as surface ships conducting ship-to-shore fire support on the San Clemente Island Range complex.”
It is a live fire exercise, he continued, executed against land and sea targets. This replicates a complex joint and coalition combat environment.
According to the weapons school, Phoenix Fire grew out of HSC Wing Pacific’s desire to increase the fidelity of training for its Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk squadrons in anti-surface warfare with a focus on close air support. The number of ground participants grew, and the exercise increased to include the training and evaluation of three nations' personnel, six ground units, more than eight aviation platforms, two surface combatants, and the test, development, and evaluation of the MH-60S, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System.
In 2016, Phoenix Fire participants included:
- JTACs from the 116th ASOS
- 6th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO)
- Canadian Special Operations Forces (CANSOF)
- Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) Australia
- U.S. Army's Special Forces Group (SFG)
The weapons school said HSC Wing Pacific MH-60S squadrons provided most of the air support. However, they were frequently accompanied by MH-60R Helicopter Maritime Strike squadrons, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet Strike Fighter squadrons, Marine Fighter Attack squadrons, Air Test and Evaluation squadrons, Lockheed Martin KC-130 Hercules Marine Aerial Refueler Transport squadrons and Royal Netherlands Air Force with Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs.
HSC Weapons School Pacific told R&WI that this year’s exercise contains two new additions. Both air and ground assets have been added, including tankers, fixed-wing aircraft, the General Atomics MQ-9 drone and 60MM mortars from the 1s Marine Logistics Group. This year’s Phoenix Fire also includes peer versus peer threat presentation.