Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … military planes and helicopters

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

Mississippi residents may see more military activity in the skies from now until April 27.

The Mississippi National Guard began the 12th annual exercise Southern Strike Thursday at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center. Approximately 2,000 service members from 15 states — both active and reserve military — are participating in the joint international combat exercise, along with four international partner nations.

A combined force of Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard units will conduct training missions that prepare personnel for air-to-air combat, aerial refueling, aerial and ground transport, and close air support.

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A special focus will be centered around emerging Agile Combat Employment tactics, techniques and procedures, and Multi-Capable Airmen training. Army Special Operations forces are among the participants.

Planes and helicopters will increase activity in the skies above the state during this exercise.

The 2022 exercise brought in more than $17 million to the state economy. Exercise director is Col. Bryce Butler of the 186th Air Operations Group, Key Field Air National Guard Base, Mississippi.

Other locations conducting training include Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Camp McCain Training Center, Key Field Air National Guard Base, Trent Lott International Airport, Jeremiah Denton Airport in Alabama, and Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina.