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News > 18 U.S. F-16s fly in BALTOPS, EAGLE TALON
USAF F-16s fly with NATO wingmen
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, takes off from Lask Air Base, Poland, June 12, 2014. There are 18 aircraft participating in multinational Polish-led Exercise EAGLE TALON and U.S. Navy-led BALTOPS 14 in addition to U.S. Aviation Detachment Rotation 14-3. U.S. Air Force pilots flew with other pilots from multiple countries to increase readiness for real-world operations and enhance interoperability between NATO forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kyle Gese/Released)
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18 U.S. F-16s fly in BALTOPS, EAGLE TALON

Posted 6/17/2014   Updated 6/18/2014 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Kyle Gese
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/17/2014 - LASK AIR BASE, Poland- -- U.S. Airmen are flying and training with allies in U.S. Navy-led Baltic Operations 14 and Polish-led Exercise EAGLE TALON throughout June during U.S. Aviation Detachment Rotation 14-3, the third planned aviation rotation to Poland.

In support of these multi-national exercises, the U.S. Aviation Detachment in Poland hosted an aviation rotation of 18 U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, with nearly 400 Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during the first three weeks of June.

This aviation rotation marks the largest deployment of U.S. Air Force Airmen and equipment to Poland, according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Spears, Av-Det commander, as well the largest theater security cooperation event ever hosted by the Av-Det with NATO allies.

The 606th Air Control Squadron and 480th Fighter Squadron will both train with NATO allies during BALTOPS 14 and Exercise EAGLE TALON. The 480th FS is supported by more than 300 U.S. Airmen at Lask Air Base, and the 606th ACS is providing air control and command for Exercise EAGLE TALON during Av-Det Rotation 14-3 with 90 Airmen from Powidz Air Base, Poland.

"We are a contributing member of NATO ... and these exercises show that we take the time during peacetime to train with our allies, so that we are better prepared during contingencies," said Spears, a native of Pueblo, Colorado. "Our presence here in Poland has certainly solidified our position as a leader amongst the NATO nations, but it's also increased our bilateral partnership with the Polish air force and with the Polish armed forces as a whole."

The Av-Det's mission is to foster bilateral defense ties between the U.S. and Poland and increase interoperability as NATO allies, which benefits future NATO operations, according to Spears. It also reassures allies of the U.S.'s commitment to Eastern Europe's security and its readiness to respond to contingencies in a timely manner.

U.S. Air Force pilots have flown with multiple nations' air forces in BALTOPS 14, the largest annual maritime exercise in the Baltic region, including aircraft from Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the U.S.

This training takes place above, on and under the Baltic Sea. The NATO pilots have two teams: red and blue team. Each of the players take turns either attacking or defending certain targets, working together to increase interoperability and mission effectiveness.

"BALTOPS is an exercise that allows us to get with our NATO allies, train together and learn lessons from each other," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Repak, 52nd Fighter Wing pilot from Booneville, New York. Repak has flown the F-16, executing maritime interdiction and dissimilar air combat training, during BALTOPS missions. "The main goal is to strengthen our relationships with our NATO allies. It also reassures our allies that we are there by their side."

While participating in BALTOPS, the U.S. also flew with NATO allies during Polish-led Exercise EAGLE TALON simultaneously for the first time.

Exercise EAGLE TALON is a Polish initiative to increase interoperability by training pilots to either strike or defend a target. In addition to U.S. and Polish armed forces, air assets from France and the United Kingdom participated to train for future NATO missions. This is the seventh year the Polish have hosted this exercise, previously a national air exercise.

It incorporates air-to-air and air-to-surface training over land, and provides aerial combat tactics training in a multi-national environment. The exercise focuses on large-force formations providing air defense, which trains pilots to attack and defend targets with NATO allies. Much like BALTOPS 14 aerial operations, EAGLE TALON allows NATO wingmen to simulate friendly and enemy aircraft with two opposing teams.

"It's an excellent opportunity to exchange experience with people who are more proficient with more combat hours," Polish air force Lt. Lukasz Gradzinski, 31st Tactical Air Base, Poland, 6th Squadron training officer, said of the exercise.

Exercise EAGLE TALON provides Polish pilots with an opportunity to gain a vast amount of knowledge from pilots who are more proficient in a combat environment, according to Gradzinski, who was trained by a U.S. pilot currently flying with him in EAGLE TALON. This allows NATO allies to accomplish the same tasks with different aircraft and platforms, he said.

The Polish Air Force has flown the F-16s since 2006, according to Polish air force representatives. Polish pilots obtain their training for the F-16 in the U.S. with experienced fighter pilot instructors, which aims to enhance NATO ties.

Beyond building partnerships with NATO allies to better operate in future contingencies, exercises such as EAGLE TALON and BALTOPS 14 aim to build relationships with other nations.

"We [the Polish people] will always be ready to cooperate in support of our American allies, but also want to be assured that we have a strong ally on our side," Polish air force Lt. Col. Marcin Modrzewski. "We in Poland know that Poland is not for free. It is a great feeling to know that we have America on our side."

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