U.S. and ROK Air Forces kick off exercise Max Thunder 17

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Exercise Max Thunder 17, a large-scale exercise designed to enhance the interoperability of U.S. and Republic of Korea Air Forces, kicked of here, April 17.

U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and ROK personnel all train in this annual exercise to sustain and build upon skills important to defending the security of the Korean Peninsula.

“During this exercise, we use different mission sets to enhance our tactical proficiency,” said Capt. Austin Buller, 36th Fighter Squadron operations flight commander. “Working with the Koreans is especially important here, and during this exercise we can get that face-to-face encounter in an air combat training scenario.”

U.S. and ROK units from various locations on the Korean Peninsula and Japan participate in the exercise, which is hosted at a different location each year; every participating unit plays a key role in supporting this air combat mission. This is no less true for Team Osan.

Members of the 36th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit are the primary personnel for the suppression of enemy air defenses mission. SEAD makes it possible for air interdiction, or deep air support, to use preventative tactics against enemy targets.

“Team Osan is the SEAD first responder,” said Buller. “We are just about the only unit on [the Korean Peninsula] with that capability, so it will be good practice for us and will also help our integration.”

Aside from flying roles, this exercise also gives the 36th AMU an opportunity to train while in an off-station environment.

“With the vast turnover [rate in Korea], this will be the first time many of our maintainers have worked in Max Thunder, or have had the opportunity to work at Kunsan,” said Capt. Robert Gulla, 36th AMU OIC. “They will encounter different issues that typically would not arise at home, and [will need to] work through these [new] challenges.”

Approximately 1,000 U.S. personnel will participate in the exercise in support of (28) F-16 aircraft from 7th Air Force, and (1) E-3, (1) E-8 and (6) AV-8B aircraft from the 12th Marine Aircraft Group. All participating U.S. units will operate from air bases in the ROK and Japan.

The exercise is scheduled to continue through the 28th of April, increasing the combat readiness of U.S. and ROK air forces through combined and joint large-force employment training.