The US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), in coordination with other combatant commands, appropriate US government agencies and international allies, concluded exercise Global Lightning 17 on February16.
Global Lightning 17 is an annual command and control exercise which began Feb. 7 and enabled Department of Defense (DoD) forces to train with partners and allies, assess joint operational readiness and validate the command’s ability to identify and mitigate attacks across all USSTRATCOM mission areas.
"We operate in a complicated world with a myriad of threats. We must, therefore, effectively leverage all our capabilities with those of our allies and integrate effectively with the other combatant commands," said US Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of USSTRATCOM. “Exercises such as Global Lightning provide our combined forces an opportunity to train as we would fight in a real-world situation.”
The notional scenario for Global Lightning 2017 incorporated avariety of strategic threats across all USSTRATCOM mission areas and was coordinated for more than a year. The exercise is designed to ensure the resilience, redundancy and survivability of US strategic deterrent forces, stressing the USSTRATCOM capabilities that are provided to geographic combatant commanders during a crisis or contingency.
Global Lightning also provided opportunities for strengthening existing international partnerships with the United Kingdom and other allied nations.
UK Royal Navy Commodore Paul Burke, head of nuclear operations for the Director General Nuclear organization, noted that the exercise has improved since the last time he was here four years ago.
“Looking at how this exercise has progressed, how it’s improved with the integration of the allies doing more work, is leaps and bounds better than it used to be,” Burke said. “The exercise was always forward leaning, but now it’s really showing how we need to integrate and how we need to work if we ever go to war together.”
Hyten added that USSTRATCOM benefits from a number of partner nation liaison officers from Australia, Canada, Denmark and the UK, who are permanently assigned to the command’s headquarters on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
“We must seamlessly integrate inside this command, with other combatant commands, and with our partners and allies,” Hyten said. “Having liaison officers from partner nations assigned here at USSTRATCOM Headquarters ensures a better synchronization of our combined efforts as we work toward mutual goals.”
Global Lightning also took place at the same time USSTRATCOM was participating in US European Command’s (USEUCOM) exercise Austere Challenge 17, a computer-assisted, command-post exercise designed to train multi-combatant command coordination in fictitious scenarios focused on European security.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, USEUCOM commander, said the training event was another way to remain responsive and proactive in a theater that is constantly and dynamically changing.
“Exercises like this validate our ability to rapidly respond together with decisive and overwhelming success in Europe, or to enable other combatant commands,” said Scaparrotti.
Hyten reiterated that USSTRATCOM is on watch 24/7 and must be ready to address threats and prepare to respond to the threats of the future, but the strength of the command lies in its people.
“The ultimate strength of our command is you, the joint and allied warfighters – officers, enlisted, and civilians,” Hyten said. “Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines stand watch every day and night and willingly deploy into harm’s way at a moment’s notice.”
One of nine DoD unified combatant commands, USSTRATCOM has global strategic missions assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence; space operations; cyberspace operations; joint electronic warfare; global strike; missile defense; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and analysis and targeting.