ABOARD THE USS WASP: Navy and Marine Corps leaders involved with the huge Bold Alligator amphibious warfare this week will tell you it’s all about the lessons learned. And there was no bigger lesson in amphib combat ops in recent years than Operation Unified Protector, also known as Libya.
“Libya [operations] played a huge role” in the planning and execution of the various operational scenarios sailors and Marines will carry out during Bold Alligator, Lt. Cmdr George Pastoor said, referring to the UN-mandated peacekeeping mission that helped oust former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi last March.
Pastoor, a Dutch naval officer, is part of the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 2. ESG 2 and their counterparts in Marine Expeditionary Group 2 are spearheading operations during Bold Alligator. During the exercise, U.S. and coalition forces will execute a tactical rescue mission of a downed American pilot later this week as part of the combat drill, Pastoor said. The mission, known as a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel or TRAP, is one American forces conducted in March when an F-15 crashed behind enemy lines in Libya and a V-22 swooped in and rescued the pilot. Aside from operations, combat planners also used the exercise to help close critical intelligence sharing gaps that plagued American and coalition forces in northern Africa.
Intel sharing and coordination was one of the top problems identified by NATO and American military leaders shortly after operations ended in Libya. Allied pilots complained that the U.S. process to clear targeting imagery for NATO pilots took too long so they did not rely on American intelligence. The situation was further complicated since four-fifths of all intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance used during Operation Unified Protector came from U.S. sources.
A NATO-led review of the Libyan operation is scheduled to wrap up this month, but allied forces participating in Bold Alligator wasted no time in trying to fix those problems. Exercise planners are leaning heavily on the Navy’s Combined Enterprise Regional information exchange system — or CENTRIX — to stream intel and imagry between U.S. and coalition forces, Pastoor said. The system, he said, will allow access of all intel gathered U.S. forces to partner nation forces. The Navy first developed the system in 2003 and it is already in use by naval forces in Pacific and Central commands. It has been critical in coordinating counterpiracy operations run by the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Combined Task Force 151, the international piracy task force. However, information included in the CENTRIX system will still have to be cleared by U.S. military intelligence, Col. Scott Jensen, head of the 29th Marine Air Group told Breaking Defense aboard the USS Kearsarge on Sunday. Coalition partners will not have immediate access to the raw intel gathered by Navy and Marine Corps forces, Jensen said.
Military representatives from Israel, India, Canada, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Italy, France and the United Kingdom joined the Dutch to help plan and execute the various operations in the exercise. British Royal Marines, Canadian Marines and French naval commandos hit the shores of Amberland yesterday morning alongside their Marine Corps counterparts. Called the largest amphibious exercise in 10 years, it was designed to replicate a sea-to-shore assault spearheaded by U.S. and coalition forces against enemy forces from the fictional country of “Garnet”, who invaded the neighboring country of “Amberland” on Sunday.