48th Fighter Wing and Royal Air Force personnel participated in the latest iteration of exercise Point Blank in Yorkshire, England, March 22, 2019.
Point Blank is a recurring, low-cost exercise initiative designed to increase tactical proficiency of U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa and Ministry of Defence forces. Alongside F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 492nd and 494th Fighter Squadrons, RAF Typhoon, Hawk and F-35B Lightning jets also participated.
“Point Blank aims to simulate threats and scenarios our operators are likely to experience in combat. Flying alongside our RAF partners and coordinating with the joint terminal attack controllers on the ground does just that,” said Lt. Col. James Cooper, 48th Operations Group deputy commander. “The realism we achieve by replicating threats and partnering with our allies to achieve shared operational objectives ensures both of our nations are trained and ready to fly, fight and win together, whenever called upon.”
This event marks the first time U.K. ground controllers integrated with U.S. aircraft during a large-force exercise, continuing the existing readiness training partnership between the two nations. American and British mission planners worked together to develop the training scenario in order to align objectives for both forces.
“The mission set is highly contested, close-air support with dynamic targeting involving a high-value individual,” said Capt. Andrew Lyons, an F-15E Pilot assigned to 48th Operations Support Squadron and one of the lead planners of the exercise. Point Blank’s large-force exercises have involved dynamic and changing targeting scenarios in the past, but this was the first time a focus on contested or degraded operations has been used as a component of the training, Lyons said.
“With the inclusion of fifth-generation aircraft, we were able to dive into more complex and more contested degraded operations,” said Lyons. “This was just scratching the surface. We will be able to dive even deeper as we continue to integrate our training with our U.K. counterparts.”
The newer multi-role F-35 Lightning stealth aircraft are sometimes referred to as fifth-generation jets, in comparison to fourth-generation aircraft like the RAF Typhoon or the U.S. Air Force F-15E.