Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress aircraft participated in Brother’s Shield, a Colombian Air Force-led exercise, and in UNITAS LXI, an Ecuadorean Navy-led exercise in U.S. Southern Command’s Area of Responsibility, November 8, 2020.
This twofold mission began well before the B-52 crews took off that morning; there have been countless teleconferences and planning meetings to coordinate the combined training exercises between the U.S. Air Force and our partner nations’ militaries.
Brother’s Shield was the first mission to be completed, celebrating the Colombian Air Force’s 101st anniversary. The B-52H crews supported the Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter aircraft pilots in air-to-air interception training while developing interoperability capabilities in order to increase hemispheric security and regional stability, under NATO standards between the U.S. and Colombia.
U.S. Air Force Major Angel Serna, Air Forces Southern/12th Air Force Colombia desk officer, explained that the name of the exercise, Brother’s Shield, developed from the close relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the Colombian Air Force. During this training mission, the Colombian Kfirs flew in formation with the U.S. Air Force B-52Hs in order to shield them from enemy combatants.
“Anytime we have the privilege to integrate with our allies in a fighter integration or naval exercise we are excited,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Joshua Henry, 96th Bomb Squadron B-52H pilot and mission lead. “We identified a lot of similarities in the way that the Colombians conduct their intercept training and working with the UNITAS exercise proved to be very beneficial as well. Further developing our tactics, techniques, and procedures with the navy is always beneficial for us as an air player since this is not something we have the opportunity to train on a consistent basis with real time naval assets.”
UNITAS is an annual naval exercise conducted in the Atlantic and Pacific waters around Central and South America. The Ecuadorean Navy hosted this year’s exercise, November 2-11, with participants from 11 countries. The B-52 crews integrated and trained with joint forces for UNITAS to include the Ecuadorean Navy to provide a simulated dynamic targeting capability for naval forces.
“I haven’t worked with the Colombian or Ecuadorean militaries before, but anytime that we as a community have an opportunity to work with partner nations we always learn a lot,” Capt. Henry said. “Colombia and Ecuador were very professional and a lot of our lessons learned were developed from the planning stages.”