Last week, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) took part in the first-of-its-kind major exercise in the Atlantic. From May 28 to May 31, the U.S. Northern Command led a major homeland defense drill, known as Operation Eagle, that was conducted in partnership with North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Space Command.
This was the first such large-scale exercise that involved four combatant commands and NORAD. It involved homeland defense operations, joint integration exercises and multinational operations. It also was meant to strengthen the interoperability in command and control.
“Leading complex multi-combatant command operations across multiple domains demonstrates our readiness to defend our homeland regardless of COVID-19,” said General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM. “The high-end training we are conducting enables integration between strategic-level organizations who all play a significant role in the most important mission for our nation – defending our homeland.”
The exercise was as much about the ability for the various commands to work together and the new technology that is helping tie such diverse groups together. The participants taking part in the drills utilized the Link 16 tactical data system, which enhanced the tactical capabilities by allowing the individual players to share real-time situation awareness and command and control data.
The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) provided a B-1B Lancer long-range bomber to simulate an enemy and attempt to penetrate U.S. airspace to provide realistic training to the forces during the training. The B-1B was likely selected for its “Red Team” role as the multi-mission, supersonic bomber can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision munitions against an adversary anywhere in the world at any time.
To defend the skies of North America from the simulated threat, NORAD conducted air defense exercise drills that included CF-18s from the Canadian Air Force and U.S. F-15s, which were fueled by a U.S Transportation Command KC-135 Stratotanker, which remain the most numerous Air Force tanker in U.S. service.
The NORAD aircraft conducted air intercept exercises in conjunction with F/A-19 fighters from the HSTCSG. The carrier strike group (CSG) is comprised of the flagship Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and the embarked squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60). HSTCSG has remained at sea a combat-ready global response force throughout the coronavirus pandemic. In April the Pentagon announced it would stay at sea, despite the fact it had conducted two deployments in a row without any major maintenance period. HSTCSG has remained the only on-call strike group on the East Coast.
The exercise was a show of power and demonstrated the U.S. Northern Command ability to deter, detect and notably defeat threats to the United States, as it conducted its primary mission of defending the homeland.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.