The US Military F-18 is still flying and will soon be replaced with the new F-35 military aircraft. WICHITA, Kan. - Over 1,000 military personnel converged on Salina and the surrounding area in June to participate in a joint exercise known as Jaded Thunder. Smoky Hill Weapons Range and the Salina Regional Airport teamed up to host the event.
“Jaded Thunder is an interoperability and integration exercise between special operation forces and conventional forces,” said Stamp Walden, lead planner for Jaded Thunder. “It’s a joint exercise so there [are personnel] from all the services, active duty, reserves and Guard.”
Units representing the Army, Navy, Marine Corp and Air Force, along with each branch’s special operations forces, trained together for two weeks on the range. Various weather conditions, day and night-time scenarios using opposing forces and diverse terrain offered the participants a variety of challenges.
Each day began with mission briefs followed by equipment preparations. Aircraft then systematically deployed from Salina Regional Airport and headed toward Smoky Hill.
“The Salina airport allows us to put a lot of aircraft out there, they’re easy to work with, have great facilities and are very close in proximity to Smoky Hill,” said Walden.
With 12,300 feet of runway and plenty of room to park aircraft, stage equipment and accommodate personnel, Salina Regional Airport was a perfect fit for the exercise, according to Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport Authority.
“We have the ability to accommodate any military aircraft that’s operating today, from rotor wing all the way to the largest cargo aircraft,” said Rogers.
Located just six miles southwest of Salina, Smoky Hill Weapons Range is a 34,000 acre bomb range, making it the largest range in the Air National Guard. It’s operated and maintained by 23 Airmen assigned to Detachment 1, 184th Intelligence Wing.
Range personnel dedicated months of hard work in preparation for Jaded Thunder.
“All my guys across the board put a lot of work into it and we’re all very proud of what we’ve done to prepare for Jaded Thunder this year,” said Lt. Col. Russ Allen, commander of Detachment 1.
As part of an ongoing effort to provide a realistic experience, the personnel added approximately 20 miles of target roads for remote controlled vehicles and installed remote activated street lights in villages known as military operations in urban terrain sites.
“We just built our seventh Military Operations in Urban Terrain site and two of those are munitions capable so you can actually drop and engage the village itself,” said Allen.
The range featured 12,000 acres of impact area, over 120 targets and close to 400 individual vehicles and structures which were used by multiple aircraft as well as ground forces, all working at the same time during the large exercise. Artillery units were also brought onto the range for only the second time since World War II.
“Really what we’re getting at is joint training, train like we fight,” said Allen. “Now instead of just one plane and one guy on the ground, we have multiple ground parties working with multiple air parties and we’re really training like we are fighting down range.”
The range’s commitment to providing beneficial training experiences showed during the exercise. According to Allen, communication and feedback were key factors in making effective improvements. Before visiting units wrap up their training, range personnel ask what enhancements can be made to improve the training experience.
Besides the size and available training options, Smoky Hill’s location was also an attractive feature for Jaded Thunder.
“We’re centrally located,” said Allen. “We bring in units from all over the nation and everybody’s traveling the same distance, they can meet in the middle here.”
Both Allen and Rogers agreed that the partnership between Smoky Hill, Salina Regional Airport and the city of Salina benefits everyone involved.
“Salina is a military friendly community,” said Rogers. “When military members come to train at the regional training institutes and Smoky Hill, they’re welcomed by business owners through Salina’s patriot business program.”
The community’s economic impact during the 15-day exercise was estimated at $2.6 million.
“That’s a big impact on our community,” said Rogers.
Those making an impact on the community included Airmen assigned to the 134th Air Control Squadron. Like Detachment 1, the 134th ACS is an organization that belongs to the 184th IW. They’re a fully deployable unit that specializes in managing airborne assets in a battlefield environment.
Video Description Credit: Matthew Mccoy
Video Credit: US Military
Video Thumbnail Credit: US Military modified by ArmedForcesUpdate