KORAT, Thailand- The Royal Thai Air Force and U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps worked together to conduct a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) exercise here Feb. 11, as a part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2009.
Cobra Gold is an annual joint, multinational exercise focused on maintaining and improving military interoperability among its participants.
The forces partnered up to simulate the extraction of a friendly aircrew from enemy territory during a scenario in which a U.S. Air Force plane lost engine power, forcing the crew to ditch the aircraft. As they were preparing to ground the aircraft, however, they collided with a friendly F-16 RTAF pilot, who ejected safely.
Meanwhile, the U.S. plane continued the "ditch maneuver" and landed in a rice paddy with just two survivors. After they met up with the F-16 pilot, the three servicemembers called in the incident to identify an extraction point, which happened to be four miles away.
The three then navigated and maneuvered around the terrain to evade the enemy until safely extracted.
"Overall it was a success. That was the largest navigation we have done in the last two years," said Navy Lt. Sean McCarthy, primary coordinator for the exercise with Marine Aircraft Group 12, which is serving under Marine Aircraft Group 36 for Cobra Gold. "The program is designed to exercise evasion, survival and navigation in a combat environment, and they did that."
With the sun beating down, two USAF crewmembers and one RTAF pilot covered five miles of farm land to make it to their extraction point, while utilizing compasses, Global Positioning Systems and radios to communicate with forces in the sky and find their way through the maze of rice paddies.
Royal Thai Flying Officer Akkara Khaovises, an F-16 pilot, made most of the communications to U.S. forces regarding positions and the group's extraction point.
"The Thai pilot did really well, and it's great practice for the guys up there," said Capt. Elisabeth Lompert, with the U.S. Air Force 962nd Squadron, pointing at the F-18s whizzing overhead. "It's great practice for them to listen and understand different accents coming in over the radio."
MAG-12's CSAR program is two years old and has been conducted five times in places like Malaysia, Okinawa and now Thailand's lowlands.
"This particular scenario was unique," said McCarthy, "While the F-18s were providing security for the downed allies, they were simultaneously being engaged by 'hostile' F-16s" - a situation that could happen in a real life.
As the three came closer to their extraction point, it became clear that working together in the future would not be a problem if they ever found themselves in a similar situation. They found their way from a crash site behind "enemy" lines and joined forces to successfully maneuver to the extraction point, where friendly helicopters hovered before them to take them to safety.
The team demonstrated the importance of military interoperability, and their mission accomplishment reinforced the positive effects that result from the bilateral training that occurs during Cobra Gold.
This year marks the 28th iteration of Cobra Gold , which offers all participating nations critical training opportunities to improve interoperability and build an increased capability to conduct multinational operations.