By Captain Mathew Strong
Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) crews, support personnel and technicians deployed to Exercise Puma Strike at Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California, on October 28, 2016.
Flying operations for the exercise began on October 31 and continue to November 23, 2016.
Twice a year, 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron, alongside various elements of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, and the RCAF, deploy to locations in the southern United States to conduct warm weather training exercises.
“This deployment is an outstanding opportunity for the RCAF’s fighter force to conduct worthwhile, uninhibited training in an operating environment different from our own,” said Colonel Paul Doyle, the commander of 4 Wing. “This is a controlled way to expose our people to new agencies and procedures which will surely expand their knowledge and be put to use when deployed outside Canada.”
|A CF-188 Hornet from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, participates in the RCAF’s Exercise Puma Strike at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, on October 31, 2016. PHOTO: Lance Corporal Jacob Pruitt, U.S. Marine Corps|
The exercise also includes participation by a CC-130T Hercules air-to-air refueler based in 17 Wing Winnipeg and air combat systems officers (ACSO) from 414 Electronic Warfare Squadron in Ottawa, Ontario.
The ACSOs fly in the rear seat of contracted Dornier Alpha Jets operated by Discovery Air Defence Services Inc. that provide realistic threat simulation to CF-188 Hornet pilots.
“Flying away from Cold Lake offers our people a chance to step up and overcome the challenges inherent with operating away from home, which is something we do when on deployed operations,” added Colonel Doyle.
Although training and operations are still conducted year-round in Cold Lake, multiple days of low cloud, poor visibility and reduced runway surface conditions tend to affect training timelines.
“Exercise Puma Dtrike is our opportunity to conduct an incredible amount of flying in a relatively short period of time,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Seane Doell, commanding officer of 410 Squadron.
“The favourable weather conditions and deployed setting have historically enabled 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron to achieve a sortie generation rate approximately 300 per cent greater than is typically possible at home at this time of year.”
Deploying such a large contingent of personnel, equipment and aircraft to a new location for three to four weeks of operations is also a unique and significant logistics challenge, presenting a secondary training opportunity for all those involved.