When it comes to ruling the skies, there is no more important collaboration than the one between the Navy and Air Force, and at U.S.
Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) in Qatar, that
is no part-time partnership.
Integrated strike between the Air Force and Navy is
not easy; it must be taught virtually from the moment a
Sailor or Airman walks through the doors, and practiced
every day. It is a vital partnership, especially when facing
an agile enemy on the ground in Afghanistan and Syria.
“The level of integration here as far as prosecuting
the mission is seamless,” Col. Dan Manning, deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center
(CAOC) at AFCENT, told Seapower.
He was joined on the telephone interview by Navy
Capt. Brent Blackmer, who is the prospective deputy
carrier air wing commander for Carrier Air Wing 1.
Blackmer is one of three battle directors at the CAOC.
“It includes both Air Force and Navy assets, and coalition partners,” Manning said. “The mission doesn’t
depend on whether it’s Air Force or naval equipment.
We determine what the effect is, and then we tag the
right asset to go do that. So on any
given day, whether it’s over Mosul
or Syria, we hand it off to assets.
It’s seamless both to planners and
to folks on the ground.”
It is the combination of assets
that each service brings to the table
— each having their own strengths
— that allow them to complement
“We [the Air Force] have the
preponderance of tanker assets and
can refuel aircraft,” Manning said.
“And the Navy brings the electro-
magnetic spectrum with [EA-18G]
Growlers and [EA-6B] Prowlers.”
Blackmer said serving as the
battle director at CAOC “has given
me a unique perspective,” since he has spent years
working closely with the Air Force.
“Quite simply, as a battle director, my job is to
ensure that the daily 110 hours of close-air support
throughout the combined area of operations is met,” he
said. “I need to be able to do so, irrespective of country
Meeting that requirement also is asset-agnostic. It
does not matter if it is an F/A-18 or some other aircraft,
as long as the job gets done, Blackmer said.
That perspective does not happen overnight; it has
to start at the very beginning when the officer is a
“young baby O2,” he said, referring to the lowest officer rank in the Navy. From the moment he began flying
out of Virginia Beach, Va., Blackmer needed to work
with squadrons out of Langley Air Force Base.
“I started to work with folks on the ground, with Air
Force Special Operations Command, where I got my
first introduction to folks flying A-10s and F-16s, and
then you go further and [experience] joint operations
either in a live environment or a live synthetic environment,” he said.
Partners in Flight
U.S. Navy-Air Force collaboration continues to evolve
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
Air Strike Integration
Cooperation and collaboration among the U.S. Navy and Air
Force, as well as coalition partners, is critical to successful operations over Afghanistan and Syria.
n Officers at the Combined Air Operations Center at U.S. Air
Forces Central Command in Qatar say the combination of assets
that each service brings to the table allows them to complement
n The two services work together on strike integration during
n The arrival of the F- 35 also is an exciting addition to both services and will be beneficial to cooperation.