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USAFE supports pivotal EUCOM air, missile defense exercise

  • Published
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa
U.S. and allied partners recently completed an air and missile defense exercise that served as a milestone in ballistic missile defense efforts in Europe. 

The cross-area of responsibility air and missile defense exercise, or CAMDEX, began on April 18 and concluded on April 29. The exercise included over 1,900 U.S. and allied nation participants from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, operating in 11 countries across Europe and the Middle East. The completion of the 11-day exercise and capstone joint test event was planned over a two year period and included more than 40 different U.S., allied and interagency organizations.

CAMDEX made use of all available regional BMD systems including U.S. and allied Army Missile Defense Systems, Aegis-based BMD systems, long range radars, communication networks and spaced based sensors.

The CAMDEX was created to address growing missile threats.

“Missile defense can’t be just about playing catch,” said Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “The growing missile threat requires the U.S. and our allies to call upon multiple methods of countering missile threats which includes passive defense, active defense, and necessary command and control.”

The exercise was a fully distributed event with operators working to the maximum extent possible from within their actual or simulated deployed locations.

“Active Ballistic Missile Defense is an important part of our defensive capability—but it is not a shield,” said Al Burke, USAFE Integrated Air and Missile Defense Division chief. “We need to re-learn some of the passive defense actions that were common place in Europe 30 years ago and in other parts of the world today.”

 The joint test portion of the CAMDEX produced refined procedures using available sensor data to implement missile warning procedures similar to those used for weather warnings in the United States.

 An important part of the refinement process focused on the appropriate response to warning indications, all the way from headquarters to the installation-level.

 “The exercise unfolded in the manner we had intended,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Owens, USAFE IAMDD deputy chief, “It began with increased threats, intelligence warnings then progressed into the kinetic phase where active and passive defense measures were used to intercept targets and reduce the consequences of impact should engagement fail.”

 Exercise planners built training scenarios based on current threat assessments, which focused on dangers posed outside the Euro-Atlantic area. Planners also ensured that CAMDEX addressed important training and evaluation requirements, including executing key portions of IAMD plans that would be used in a real-world response. 

The exercise also tested the strength of the “four pillars” of ballistic missile defense: active defense, passive defense, attack operations and command and control. Individually, each pillar may only provide a limited measure of protection; combined they create a more complete defense against missiles. 

Missile defense does not solely rely on missile interceptors; passive defense, or protective measures, were also practiced and evaluated during the exercise.

 "All members of the Kaiserslautern Military Community need to be ready for any situation," said Col. Laura Johnson, 86th Civil Engineering Group commander. "While it is unlikely we would come under missile attack at Ramstein, we still have a responsibility to practice responding to an attack and making sure our Airmen and base population understand the dangers and know to react when needed."

Passive defense measures were also exercised by some civil authorities among NATO partners. Warnings and information were shared in real-time with civil authorities. In a real-world BMD event, rapid sharing of information can help mitigate damage and help save lives.

 “This four pillars Integrated Air and Missile Defense initiative focused on developing, testing and evaluating new missile defense tactics, techniques and procedures across-areas of responsibility with U.S. Central Command, NATO, and alliance partners,” said Burke.

 “We were able to end this exercise with a new understanding and new knowledge across the four pillars of ballistic missile defense with U.S. and allied partners to improve our capability to defend against missile attack” said Owens.

CAMDEX concluded with a distinguished visitor day at NATO Air Command Headquarters to review the accomplishments made during the exercise. Outside, a U.S. and French missile defense systems were on display provided by the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the French air force.

“Some may see the missile defense static display and think it represents the entire BMD architecture,” said Burke. “But in reality, successfully providing defense requires the efforts and planning of military and civil professionals working together at all levels to provide safety and security for one another.”