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At 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., members of 42 Radar Squadron support flight training and operations throughout the year by providing ground-based tactical control services to aircraft engaged in air combat training missions. They do this in all weather conditions and anywhere they are tasked to do so.
Their capabilities as air battle managers are in even higher demand during events such as Exercise Maple Flag 50, an international training event that brings together larger formations of aircraft and an operational tempo, which simulates a live theatre of operations.
In 2017, to help ease the pressure caused by the increased operational tempo, 42 Radar Squadron is combining forces with tactical air defense controller marines from the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 48, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, to provide continuous support to Maple Flag 50, and to increase interoperability between the two squadrons and, ultimately, our two nations. Together, they form a fully integrated team of joint weapons controllers.
In normal day-to-day operations, a team of air battle managers at 42 Radar Squadron involves three people. During Maple Flag, 12 people man the operations room at any one time.
The function of the squadron during Maple Flag is to manage a group of specialized capabilities, including datalink management, surveillance, and aircraft identification, and direct communications with flight crews, all in an effort to guide aircraft toward aerial and ground-based targets.
The team of joint weapons controllers for the exercise manages as many as 24 aircraft at a time during daily Maple Flag operations within the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, where the majority of the exercise takes place. These aircraft are an international cadre of jets, tankers, helicopters, and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) (Boeing E-3 Sentry). The high operational tempo simulates modern aerial battle and represents a valuable training opportunity for junior members of both the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the USMC.
Capt Scott Maurer, the course director for the Air Battle Manager portion of the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course–a part of which is being conducted at 42 Radar Squadron–explained the history of working alongside allies such as the USMC. “It’s an important relationship that we need to keep going,” he said. “We go to the U.S. to train with Marines and they come to train with us, because if we ever combine to fight on a real-world operation, it will be together, as part of a coalition. We are always integrating with other countries; we never fight alone.”
Marine Air Control Squadron 2 is staying in Cold Lake for the duration of Maple Flag 50, from May 29 to June 23, 2017. They arrived early to familiarize themselves with differences in systems and to conduct mission planning, preparing to train in a NORAD environment.
Last year, two Marines from Marine Air Control Squadron 2 attended Maple Flag 49. Realizing the training potential of the exercise, they returned this year for Maple Flag 50 with a team of 12. The relationship between 42 Radar Squadron and Marine Air Control Squadron 2 is an example of one of the many objectives of Exercise Maple Flag–maintaining the alliance with multinational air and ground forces by working together and sharing best practices.
“We work very well with 42 Radar,” said Gunnery Sgt David Bull, tactical air defence controller with Marine Air Control Squadron 2. “We have a lot of similarities; it’s easy to integrate with their crew and start working together.”