HIANG shares air defense expertise with Philippine counterparts

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz
  • 154th Wing Public Affairs
Air Defense was the primary topic of discussion during a recently completed subject matter expert exchange between the Hawaii Air National Guard and Philippine Air Force counterparts.

The SMEE was a result of the HIANG airmen executing the National Guard's State Partnership Program. Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements to support defense and security cooperation around the world. 

"Given the complexities of today's environment, you need to have international partners" said U.S. Air Force Maj. Colin Yoshimitsu, Mission Crew Commander with the 169th Air Defense Squadron. "During these engagements we exchange knowledge and experiences with our Philippine Air Force counterparts. They learn from us and we learn from them. It's through this sharing that we are building a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship".

The month long exchange involved reciprocal visits to the respective countries and commenced on August 19th when a team from the HIANG travelled to the Philippines for what would be a seventeen day operation at multiple sites throughout the Southeast Asian country.

Basa Air Base, a roughly two and half hour drive northwest of Manila was the first major stop for the HIANG team.

Military modernization efforts by the Philippine government includes the acquisition of the South Korean developed, FA-50 fighter aircraft. With its 8000 foot runway, the newly acquired fighter could one day be based out of Basa.

At Basa, the team worked with PAF units tasked with operating and maintaining the FA-50.

A bonus for the team came in the form of a coincidental crossing of paths with U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, who was at Basa for a separate, unrelated engagement.

"The team really worked hard to accomplish the mission and represent the U.S. Air Force in a professional manner and to meet Secretary James while we were there was one of the highlights of the experience" Yoshimitsu said.

After completing the five day SMEE at Basa, a four and half hour drive north took the HIANG airmen to Wallace Air Station where the PAF maintains and operates multiple radar sites.

While at Wallace the team was able to witness a demonstration of intercept and command and control operations during a simulated air incursion of Philippine air space.

"I was really impressed with PAF's command and control" said Master Sergeant Joseph Salvador, a loadmaster with the 204th Airlift Squadron and Hawaii Air National Guard State Partnership Program coordinator and planner.  "Their equipment is not as modern as ours, but it is still capable. As the PAF goes through their modernization efforts, it's really going to be interesting seeing their air defense operations grow and evolve".

Although the overarching theme of the SMEE was air defense, other topics of discussion included cyber security and aerospace medicine. According to Salvador, the SMEE was an important way to learn the issues the PAF face.

"Exchanges such as these are invaluable in understanding what our international partners are going through. These engagements build upon each other. We are constantly trying to tailor the program to best address some of those challenges they experience" Salvador said.

With reciprocity built into the program, the HIANG hosted a contingent of PAF air defense experts visiting Hawaii in September.

While in Hawaii the PAF group was able to tour HIANG operations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as well as some of its geographically separated units.

PAF members departed Hawaii on Sep. 17th marking the completion of the 2016 engagement.