Point Blank exercise adapts to pandemic restrictions

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Matthew Plew
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

More than 45 aircraft from the Royal Air Force and U.S. Air Force participated in exercise Point Blank 20-02 over the North Sea May 12, 2020. The joint event, held quarterly in the United Kingdom was the first to be conducted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Displaced mission planning between ten U.K. installations was conducted via secured video teleconference to comply with current pandemic restrictions, and to ensure interoperability success.

“Point Blank 20-02 is instrumental in showing our bilateral resolve to continued operations during these restrictive times,” said Capt. Nathan Hartoin, a pilot for the 493rd Fighter Squadron and chief of wing weapons. “The Wing was able to prove that displaced Mission Planning can be executed safely and swiftly across multiple bases with minimal coordination.”

Point Blank provides a unit driven, custom-made, cost-effective environment to maintain warfighter readiness using realistic training against near-peer adversaries.

This iteration provided multiple opportunities for each participating unit to “upgrade,” varying personnel into a Mission Commander role or Command and Control Team Lead.

“Large exercises alongside our NATO allies enable us to share tactics, training, and procedures,” said a pilot from Number IX (Bomber) Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth. “Coordinating this number of aircraft involves a lot of support staff on the ground, who maintain the aircraft, provide air traffic control, and manage the battlespace we are training within. Ultimately their hard work on the ground makes us more effective in a range of disciplines in the air.”

The scenario for this specific Point Blank included deliberate Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Destructive Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, Defensive Counter Air and Reactive CSAR.

“The Exercise was a resounding success in providing key data points moving forward in being a more agile and lethal combat force,” said Hartoin.