DOHA -- Two long-distance US warplanes flew across the Middle East over the weekend as part of a Bomber Task Force exercise that included international coalition and partner air forces, the United States said Monday (September 5).
Two B-52H Stratofortresses assigned to the US Air Force Global Strike Command conducted theatre integration training and operations with a variety of US Air Force, partner and ally aircraft, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement.
The combined operation included fighter escorts from the air forces of the United Kingdom, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, with senior representatives of 16 coalition nations, led by Canada, enhancing logistical support.
The drill was designed to heighten regional stability and security capabilities "to remain postured and ready to defend US, coalition and allied forces and interests in the region", AFCENT said in a statement.
It also sought to build trust among the participating militaries in the region.
"Communication is critical," said Royal Canadian Air Force Lt. Col. Terry Wong, who also serves as deputy director of combat operations for the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC).
"By enhancing lines of communication, we are able to establish a clear and direct line in real time amongst the Air Operations Centres of all nations participating. This allows us to work towards a common goal and leads to mission success."
Based at al-Udeid air base in Qatar, CAOC provides the command and control of airpower throughout a 21-nation region stretching from northeast Africa across the Middle East to Central and South Asia.
CAOC serves as "the operational bridge that integrates and synchronises strategic decisions to tactical-level execution" and functions as "the nerve centre of the air campaign" -- planning, monitoring and directing sortie execution.
'Overwhelming combat power, on demand'
The Bomber Task Force simulation showed that the United States and its allies can "rapidly inject overwhelming combat power into the region on demand", said US Air Force Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich.
"Threats to the US and our partners will not go unanswered," said Grynkewich, who commands the combined forces air component of US Central Command (CENTCOM), without naming potential adversaries.
The US air force recently hit Iran-backed militias in Syria, while Grynkewich last month said the United States was "committed to regional stability whether that means deterring Iran, [or] countering violent extremist organisations".
US attack helicopters on August 24 struck several sites used by Iran-backed militants to fire rockets at the Conoco and Green Village bases in Deir Ezzor province, Syria, where US troops are housed.
The facilities are run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other international coalition partners that are maintaining a mission against the remnants of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
In the fourth exercise of its kind this year, the warplanes started at the RAF Fairford base in the United Kingdom and flew above the eastern Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula and Red Sea "before departing the region", the statement said.
US ground and naval units as well as forces from 16 other nations, including Canada, provided logistical support, the US military said. The US army "simulated firepower from the ground".
"This kind of operation demonstrates the collective capabilities of the military partnership we've developed in the Middle East," said CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla.
"We have the ability to put a significant measure of combat power in the air alongside our partners very quickly. We can do the same on the ground and at sea," he said.