ROK, U.S. Patriot crews seal gaps in combined air defense

ROK, U.S. Patriot crews seal gaps in combined air defense

by Staff Sgt. Heather Denby
U.S. Army

OSAN AIR BASE, Korea (July 24, 2015) -- Air defenders from Republic of Korea Air Force's, or ROKAF, 199th Air Defense Artillery Battalion and U.S. Army 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment joined forces for a week-long exercise linking U.S. and ROK air defense systems July 13-16 at Jungwon Air Base, South Korea.

This is the second time the two countries have conducted this type of exercise.

"The sister battalion to 2-1 ADA, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air and Missile Defense Regiment conducted a combined interoperability exercise last June with the ROKAF 177th Air Defense Artillery Battalion where they were able to successfully transfer digital data between Patriot missile systems for the first time," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ronald Brotherton, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade air defense artillery fire control officer.

"During this iteration, we expanded upon that concept by increasing the distance between the two systems and linking our communications equipment," Brotherton said. "We had many objectives for this exercise, but the bottom line is that we set out to validate the software and hardware configurations between the U.S. and ROK Patriot systems."

During the exercise, both ADA commanders were able to combine their shared mission of defending South Korea against an air or missile threat.

"We talked about the composition of our organizations and the multitude of ways that we can work together in air defense," said Lt. Col. Tony Dedmond, the 2-1 ADA commander. "We achieved every objective established prior to the exercise."

"It was a good combined effort," he said.

Soldiers of 2-1 ADA observed ROKAF 199th ADA airmen conduct their march-order emplacement, then the two units went head-to-head to see which unit could conduct the fastest missile reload drill.

"The (missile reload) concept was the same, but our equipment is slightly different," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Heaps, launcher section chief for Charlie Battery, 2-1 ADA. "It was a great opportunity to train with each other."

"The ROKAF airmen were really impressed with our system, its efficiency and our teamwork," he said.

Teamwork galvanized the bond between the two country's air defenders during the exercise, according to Brotherton.

"It was amazing to see our Soldiers and the ROK airmen work together," said Brotherton.
"When the exercise began, there was an obvious uncertainty between the two," he said. "But during the exercise, there were many challenges that required both country's air defenders to work together in order to succeed and by the end of the day, they were giving each other high-fives and joking like old friends."

The exercise culminated with a tactical seminar on the best practices of U.S. and ROK air defense followed by a competitive game of soccer.

The 199th ADA commander said there was a perfect balance of building relationships through friendly competitions and building a knowledge base through shared air defense expertise.

"This exercise was a historic first," said ROKAF Lt. Col. Jin Gi Kwon, the 199th ADA commander. "U.S. and ROK Patriot battalions exchanged digital data remotely utilizing communication relay systems."

"This proof of principle demonstrates our ability to be interoperable in a configuration replicating how we would fight alongside our allies using the Patriot system in a contingency operation," he said.

Brotherton said that with the upgrades and combined interoperability of Patriot missile systems, the U.S. and ROK forces will be able to reduce the number of missiles fired and increase engagement accuracy of potential threats.

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