TIMOR SEA (July 13, 2011) – Royal Australian Navy Lt. Bernard Dobson, air intercept controller on HMAS Sydney, observes aircraft check-in procedures in the combat information center aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class N. Ross Taylor)

TIMOR SEA (July 17, 2011) - The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) started its total force integration with Commander Task Force (CTF 70) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW 5) embarked in USS George Washington (CVN 73), along with ships from the Royal Australian Navy as they ramped up for the Talisman Sabre (TS 11) joint exercise.

Force integration brings together various types of military aircraft, ships and service members from different countries to train and operate together as one unit in a single environment.

The integration and upcoming TS 11 will provide opportunities like air defense exercises and strike group coordination events with Royal Australian forces such as the frigate HMAS Darwin.

“The operations with HMAS Darwin will include carrier air wing air-to-air missions, force air defense identification zone check-ins and check-outs with Carrier Air Wing (CVW 5) aircraft, night and day plane guard and integration into the U.S. Navy multi-data link network,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rene Cornejo, Cowpens’ Air Warfare Officer. “It is important to maintain our relationships with our allies while deployed in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility for many reasons, such as mission execution and proficiency of both navies,” he added.

Force integration presents unique challenges and training opportunities.

“The integration of the different assets is important, because communication is essential to the success of any military operation. The importance of this is amplified during joint operations,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Gene Morsen.

The training also tests the systems ability to integrate properly while communicating track data among the force and still maintain a clear tactical picture.

“In these scenarios and exercises, we all see the same picture. Warfare commanders know that the players in their warfare area need to maintain the same situational awareness, which is the key to maintaining focus and success in their respective areas of responsibility,” said Senior Chief Operations Specialist (SW) Damone Fulgham. “Because of the speed of the flow of information and timing required to conduct effective air defense, the integration helps us as air defense commander, to know that all units of the strike group are seeing the same clear and concise picture to effectively accomplish the mission,” he said.

Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Gerald Crawford said that total force integration is a vital piece to a much bigger picture.

“Force integration is vital to our mission because we have to know how to operate with other countries and different platforms, so that we know the fullest extent of our capabilities,” said Crawford. “It provides an opportunity to achieve new ways to surpass our limits of operations, to expound our knowledge, improve our interoperability and hone our decision making skills. These are all key tools to our mission success.”