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May 25 2021

Exercise Atlantic Trident 2021: Three Allied pilots, one goal

Atlantic Trident 2021 is a joint, multinational exercise involving France working with service members the United States of America the United Kingdom. The exercise's goals are to enhance 5th generation aircraft integration, combat readiness and fighting capability. This is a great opportunity for the different pilots from France, the UK and the USA to test and improve shared technical and tactical knowledge, while conducting complex air operations in a contested multinational joint forces environment.

NATO Air Command Communications Division officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dominique Di Nardo is participating the exercise and asked questions to three pilots.


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LtCol Joshua "CATA" Arki, 4th Fighter Squadron Commander, Hill Air Force Base, Utah

LtCol Di Nardo: Could you explain the new generation fighter integration?

Lt Col Arki: Advances in datalink, sensors, weapons, and the iterative evolution of tactics developed through exercises like Red Flag and Atlantic Trident have dramatically improved our interoperability. Instead of operating "near" one-another during a mission as in days past, we can now fly and fight "with" each other in the same portions of the sky. This enables us to mass firepower at the time and place of our choosing, as well as adapt quickly to a rapidly changing battle space. Additionally, we no longer require in-person planning in most cases, as we can now "see" each other in the air through advanced datalink, communications, and sensors, and therefore coordinate in real time by falling back on our shared experiences in combined exercises. We must continue to train together to retain this perishable skill as new generations of pilots, maintainers, and support personnel enter our services.

What are the differences between yesterday (without 5th Generation) and today? What do you expect for the upcoming years?

5th Generation aircraft bring game-changing situational awareness to the aerial battle space. The pilots that fly these aircraft have the tools and training to act as "quarterbacks" in the sky, thus enabling mission command and decentralized execution where it is needed the most: at the point of attack. However, 5th Generation aircraft must work in concert with other 4th Generation aircraft as well as joint ground and naval forces to win. Stealth does not equal invisibility, nor are there enough 5th Generation aircraft in the inventory to execute air campaigns autonomously. Rather, 5th Generation aircraft must utilize their transformational strengths to act as a force multiplier during the aerial conflicts of tomorrow.

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Lieutenant Colonel Mickaël, Deputy Exercise Director 

LtCol Di Nardo: Could you explain the high intensity air combat in contested operational environment?

LtCol Mickaël: High intensity defines the operations where our 3 Air Forces would be facing a very high number of well-equipped adversaries, meaning to constrain our liberty of action and thus our ability to execute orders decided by politics. Once more, crews and ground personal need to train to maintain our reactivity and efficiency at such a high level.

Our three nations have a long history spent side-by-side. Is this an advantage?

Of course it is an advantage and it is why we need to go on with those trainings. For instance thinking ahead of next Atlantic Trident events, but also in other way to cooperate together. We need to maintain our trust and mutual knowledge.

What impact do the COVID-19 measures have on the exercise?

To be honest, it has been a challenge, but the fact that we are here executing daily missions clearly shows the above all importance to have it happen.


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Flight Lieutenant Matt Smith, 11 squadron RAF Coningsby in front of his Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon 

LtCol Di Nardo: What are the values in training together - in a technological way and in an operational cooperation?

Flt Lt Smith: Training together is really important because it helps us to understand the similarities of our respective air arm, the strengths of each of our fighter aircraft, and how we can work together to improve, both technologically and operationally in terms of the effect we are trying to achieve.

What are the differences between yesterday (without 5th generation) and today? What do you expect for the upcoming years?

The F-35B Lightning 2 has been brought into service with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, to give us a Carrier Strike capability. The F35B is the first 5th generation low-observable aircraft fielded by the United Kingdom and many lessons have already been learnt as we look forward to TEMPEST, which is the next major project in air platforms for Fighter Aircraft in the United Kingdom. Going forward, we will understand far greater amounts from the F-35B programme and how we best integrate it with our 4th plus generation platform in Typhoon. The Typhoon and F-35B complement each other very well and as we work together more frequently at home and on exercises such as Atlantic Trident we will continue to unlock more of the complementary potential in each platform.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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