|Two F/A-18D Hornets take off from Utaphao Airfield, Thailand, Feb. 12 during a large force exercise with the Royal Thai Air Force and U.S. Air Force during exercise Cobra Gold 2009. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Flynn).|
Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Flynn
UTAPHAO AIRFIELD, Thailand (March 6, 2009) -- The Royal Thai Air Force, alongside the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps, participated in a large force exercise in Utaphao, Thailand, Feb. 12 as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2009.
In general terms, the large force exercise was focused on air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training scenarios that allowed command and control personnel, air controllers and pilots to improve their tactical capabilities.
U.S. and Thai forces came together in the exercise in order to learn from one another and improve military cooperation.
"This training has allowed us to meet and work with professional aviators of another country," said Capt. Ernesto Howard, a pilot with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242.
The squadron detached from Marine Aircraft Group 12, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, and attached to the Okinawa-based MAG-36 for the exercise.
"It has been good training from both the pilots' perspective and the perspective of working as peers," Howard said.
Before the pilots launched, they received several briefs to provide them information needed to plan and execute the mission.
In one scenario, U.S. Marine Corps pilots used the information from the briefs to coordinate with Thai and U.S. Air Force personnel positioned more than 150 miles away.
"The most challenging part of this is that we can't talk to the Thai and U.S. Air Forces in person," Howard said.
The scenario started with an aerial refuel mission en-route to a precision ground attack.
What progressed was simulated dog-fights with enemy aircraft before the Marines even reached the target.
Once at the objective, the Hornets dropped ordnance and fought their way back to the airfield, Howard said.
"This is a unique experience, being able to go to another country and train with their military," said 242 pilot Capt. Cody Buras.
Cobra Gold is an annual joint, coalition exercise focused on maintaining and improving military cooperation among its participants.
The exercise officially ended Feb. 17.