ACES Meet is designed with the goal of enhancing capabilities, elevating combat expertise and increase cooperation and interoperability between participating air forces. Orchestrated by PAF ACE and attended by the air forces of Turkey, Uzbekistan and the UK, we bring to you an account of this year’s exercise which proved to be a great success.
Since its inception in 2017, Exercise ACES Meet has been a platform to award an opportunity for interaction between the allied countries and air forces in the domain of air power employment and interoperability. ACES Meet 2017, 2018 and 2021-1 served as beacons in fulfilling this objective to the maximum. In continuation, with the same objective, ACES Meet 2021-2 was conceptualized. In ACES Meet 2021-2, PAF participated with various types of fighter jets, force multipliers and combat crew. It was a matter of privilege for PAF ACE to host a team of outstanding air warriors as foreign participants, who operated state-of-the-art equipment and were master of its employment in the field of modern aerial warfare. In the same regard, a fighter squadron from Turkish Air Force (TuAF) participated along with its combat and support crew. Observers from allied countries including United Kingdom and Republic of Uzbekistan were also part of the exercise.
Arrival of Participating Nations
The TuAF team comprising pilots, engineers, technicians, support staff and special services personnel arrived at an operational PAF air base in TuAF transport aircraft on 15 Oct 2021. On arrival the contingent was given a warm welcome by Air Cdre Hasan Faisal, Commandant ACE. Presentation of flower bouquets to Turkish members and exchange of souvenirs/ patches were the order of the day on arrival. Later the TuAF F-16s arrived after carrying out a long ferry all the way from their home bases.
ACES Meet 2021-2 afforded the opportunity of mutual learning in the essential domain of Counter Terrorism (CT) Operations. In addition, it provided the right stage to synergize all the combat and support assets during Large Force Employment (LFE), creating a near realistic learning environment. Two-force concept was inculcated in both the phases which were planned and executed with outstanding professionalism and utmost fervour by all the participants.
Counter Terrorism Ops missions were focused to evolve, practice and refine CT tactics to minimize sensor to shooter kill chain for time sensitive and dynamic targeting. These missions were flown in a near realistic scenario based on sub conventional threat environment, which involved coordinated employment of fighter jets, ISR platforms and special forces on ground. Para jumps of special forces, target identification by non-kinetic means followed by simulated engagements through kinetic platforms on planned, static and dynamic targets were undertaken in support of special forces utilizing contemporary procedures in permissive environment.
The overall aim of LFE phase was to evolve and practice integrated and role-oriented employment of fighter jets and force multipliers in a high threat environment. The offensive packages comprised mutually of PAF and TuAF aircraft which were used in air to air and air to ground roles for degradation and neutralization of enemy’s system of forces through variety of weapons. The contested air situation was incorporated by employing Airborne Early Warning platforms along with ground-based sensors to form the high threat Air Defence environment to achieve near realistic combat scenarios in the exercise setup. Additionally, threat assessment was also carried out through airborne and ground based Electronic warfare systems. Moreover, force multipliers were employed in various roles to augment the complexity level of LFE setups especially Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) concept was also included in the exercise for participants to be exposed to diverse planning and conduct approach. During LFEs, real time shot assessment / kill elimination procedures were practiced through Air Boss to achieve desired learning objectives.
Air Chief’s Visit
Another important event of the exercise was the visit by ACM Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff, PAF on 25 October. On arrival the air chief was received by Air Cdre Omer Shah, the Base Commander. Later, the air chief attended a comprehensive briefing regarding the conduct of exercise at the ACE. He also met the visiting allied officers of various participating nations and remained with them for some time.
While addressing the exercise participants, the Air Chief said “ACES Meet is unique as participating air forces bring along a vast experience of combat operations, whether in counter terrorism or composite flying domains. The existing global security scenario coupled with the evolving dynamics of air warfare, calls for enhanced partnership between Pakistan and participating air forces.”
Distinguished Visitors’ Day
Another important day during the ongoing multinational air exercise “ACES Meet 2021-2” at an operational air base of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was the ‘Distinguished Visitors Day’ which was observed on 28 October, attended by the senior military officials. Among the officers, were Air Vice Marshal Imtiaz Sattar (Cdr AFSC), Major General Asif Mehmood Goraya (GOC 3 Air Defence Div), Air Vice Marshal Shahid Mansoor Jehangiri (DG JO), Air Vice Marshal Kashif Qamar (DG Log), Air Vice Marshal Ikram Noor, Air Vice Marshal Asim Rashid Malik DG Aero (Engg) and Rear Admiral Naeem Sarwar (DG Public Relations, Pakistan Navy). The visiting senior officers of the armed forces appreciated the operational preparedness of the participating forces and conduct of the exercise. The exercise would further strengthen and promote the friendship and cooperation between the participating air forces, the PAF spokesman said. The military dignitaries from the participating countries were also present on the occasion.
Although the main purpose of the joint training was professional interaction, some recreational activities were also made part of the exercise calendar to promote national elements. An international night was arranged for the foreign participants to get them acquainted with indigenous Pakistani attire and local cuisines along with exposure to traditional handicraft items. The foreign contingent of Ex Aces Meet was given an opportunity of sightseeing through organizing a visit to Lahore. Apart from shopping and sightseeing of historical places, the itinerary also included visit to the vehemently intense flag lowering ceremony at Wagah Border which provided the visitors with a unique experience.
Exercises like ACES Meet, carry valid lessons, everlasting experiences, professional competence and above all inculcate the spirit of comradeship that is the core attribute of any force. With diverse experiences in peace and war, different working environments but with a common aim to “Train and Rise”; the participating Nations yearned to achieve the desired objectives. Therefore, quality learning, will to fight and comradeship were the aims to be achieved through ACES Meet 2021-2. It is keenly hoped and prayed that the friendships and bonds developed during the interaction, will last for years to come.
These exercises enhance interoperability among friendly forces who are ready to face challenges in order to uphold the sanctity of peace both at National and International level. The exercise participants departed with the message that coming together is beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.