The UK JFAC in exercise Noble Arrow 2016
Exercise Noble Arrow 2016 is one step in the certification process of the United Kingdom's Joint Force Air Component (UK JFAC) to become the NATO Response Force's (NRF) air component throughout 2017.
"Daily flying activity will typically be sorties comprising air defence, ground attack, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and there will be air transport as well," said the JFAC Commander, Air Commodore David Cooper. "What I am trying to achieve is freedom of manoeuvre for the Joint Force. We do that by defending against threats or destroying threats."
"My team will look at the task, the target, the threat and then decide the tactics to do it; the assessors are watching us do this," he continued describing what certification means to the UK JFAC. "They will also present me with a significant threat that comes up at short notice and they want me to reconfigure our plan as quickly as possible to prosecute an emerging target. It's like a game of chess, making sure at all times that I've got the optimum balance between attack, defence, intelligence and movement."
While mostly RAF personnel, the team also includes Royal Navy, Army and other NATO forces personnel. Major Patrick McGarry is an US Air Force pilot currently on an exchange tour with the RAF. As the Senior Offensive Duty Officer his role is to turn plans into action from within the Combat Operations Floor, a surprisingly quiet room filled with workstations, big screens and military tacticians wearing headsets.
"The Combat Ops Floor is very similar to an orchestra in that we have a Chief of Combat Operations (CCO) who is effectively the conductor," Major McGarry said. "He makes sure the air tasking order or plan is carried out appropriately. The sections you could almost think of as like your strings and your horns. You've got an offensive section; you've got a defensive section and a host of support functions that work in and around those two teams. When everything is working together the CCO is able to conduct missions at a time and place of his choosing."