In the midst of what is billed as the world’s largest maritime military exercise, the Air Force Special Operations Command has led a multi-aircraft, joint airborne operation involving elite warriors from four branches of the armed forces. Directed by combat controllers from the 353rd Special Operations Group, MC-130J Commando II transports dropped 63 operators from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force special operations commands and the III Marine Expeditionary Force into the Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii, according to a Pacific Air Forces release. The operation, conducted as part of the massive Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise involving ships, aircraft, and personnel from 26 nations, was a rare opportunity to improve coordination in expeditionary access into a denied or hostile area among the different service components of the US Special Operations Command. “Crisis and time constraints often go hand in hand with one another,” said Capt. John Rulien, RIMPAC mission commander for the 353rd SOG, according to the release. “And when crisis calls, there is little time to form those critical relationships among partner units that we need to enable successful mission execution, whatever, and wherever it may be.” The training “will only increase our ability to answer the call when it comes,” he said.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.