Increasing interoperability at Arctic Challenge 2017 Published May 19, 2017 By Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs ROVANIEMI AIR BASE, Finland -- Twelve F-15C Eagles and approximately 200 personnel from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and two KC-135 Stratotankers and over 30 personnel from the 351st Air Refueling Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, England, deployed to bases in Finland and Sweden for Arctic Challenge 2017, from May 19 to June 2. The multinational training exercise, aimed at building relationships and increasing interoperability, includes participants from the U.S., Finland, Sweden, Norway, the U.K., Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands, as well as representatives from NATO. "The primary objective for us is to work together with our partner nations and allies to increase our interoperability capabilities as a force," said Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, 493rd FS commander. "These practice opportunities and experiences allow our pilots and maintainers to work together side-by-side with our partners and allies to plan, execute and debrief some very complex missions. That allows us to see how we can better work together in the future." Over the next two weeks, Arctic Challenge participants will conduct live-flying events to train on offensive and defensive air combat operations. They will practice evaluating aircraft, personnel and weapons capabilities, as well as mobilizing and training in multinational operations. "Being able to work closely, face-to-face, side-by-side, and coordinate our actions together to achieve a common goal provides excellent training for everyone involved,” Zumwalt said. Through training exercises like Arctic Challenge, the U.S., allies and partner nations can build on their expertise in the air, creating a credible force prepared to effectively respond to any crisis together.