WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps recently participated in Valiant Shield 2018, a biennial exercise run by Indo-Pacific Command designed to test the joint force’s ability to conduct operations in the region.

In alignment with the U.S. transition to a security strategy predicated on a return to great power competition, Valiant Shield 2018 involved multidomain operation drills and enabled soldiers to "train side-by-side at the high end in an at-sea environment,” said exercise director Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer.

“In any future conflict, no service will go alone," Dwyer said. "Any opportunity that we can come together to train as a joint force makes us that much more lethal and capable.”

Participants included the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, five surface ships, more than 160 aircraft and approximately 15,000 personnel.

Based in the waters of the Marianas Island Range Complex and on Guam, the exercise was headed by Army Lt. Col. Joe Hansen, Multi-Domain Task Force commander with the 17th Field Artillery Brigade. Hansen developed three priorities for the exercise: to validate and improve communication systems and architecture; facilitate and integrate artillery capabilities in the Indo-Pacific maritime environment; and inform and improve upon the multidomain operational discussion.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Voorhees, with 909th Air Refueling Squadron, refuels an F-15C in support of Valiant Shield on Sept 20, 2018. (MC3 Darienne Slack/U.S. Navy)
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Voorhees, with 909th Air Refueling Squadron, refuels an F-15C in support of Valiant Shield on Sept 20, 2018. (MC3 Darienne Slack/U.S. Navy)

Participants practiced some of these skills before the exercise began, as more than 3,000 Guam-based and visiting units were re-tasked to assist civil authorities in response to Typhoon Mangkhut, which delayed the exercise.

“The U.S. military is not a fair-weather force,” Dwyer said. “We’ll fight in any conditions, day or night. This is just real-world operational training for us. It has been great for the crews to adapt, overcome, plan and execute. I am incredibly proud of the joint force coming together.”

During the exercise U.S. forces tested a range of capabilities including maritime security operations, amphibious operations, and anti-submarine and air-defense exercises. A new shallow-mine capability was tested for the first time with the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the updated Quickstrike precision mine by B-52 bombers of the Air Force’s 96th Bomb Squadron alongside the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft of Patrol Squadron Five.

“In the past, the mines were dropped by gravity weapons, so the B-52s and bombers had to be low to meet their accuracy,” said Air Force Capt. Craig Quinnett, Quickstrike’s B-52 test lead. “With Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Quickstrike extended-range weapon, we have the ability to deploy precision mines from a standoff role, which gives us a huge capability.”

At the end of the drills, the joint forces executed a sink exercise to find, fix, target and finish a target at sea. “SINKEX gives us that opportunity to do an end-to-end test of our joint capabilities,” Dwyer said.