Astral Knight 2019: Enhancing regional security Published June 3, 2019 By Senior Airman Kevin Sommer Giron 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy. -- U.S. Military Forces in Europe work closely with coalition forces from Croatia, Italy and Slovenia to execute Astral Knight 2019, at Aviano Air Base, Italy, and various locations across Europe, June 3. Astral Knight 2019, a joint-multinational exercise led by U.S. Air Forces in Europe, aims to demonstrate the defense capabilities of the U.S. integrated air and missile defense system. Training will involve a combination of flight operations and computer-assisted scenarios. The exercise’s goal is to enhance the command and control integration, coordination and interoperability of air and land capabilities and overlapping operations into the IAMD enterprise. More than 30 USAF aircraft are participating to include F-35A Lightning IIs, F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 Sentry aircraft. F-35A Lightning IIs and Eurofighter Typhoons from the Italian air force and Croatian MiG-21s join in the exercise as well. “The benefit of working with other branches and nations for Astral Knight is ensuring regional cooperation of NATO allies,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Robert Umholtz, U.S. Air Forces in Europe –Air Forces Africa A37 exercise planner, “This is a U.S. led exercise but the more we integrate 5th generation [aircraft] as we go forward, the better we’re able to operate as an air force, joint force and coalition partnership.” Fifth generation assets include F-35A fighter jets. Their capabilities complement and enhance the air superiority abilities of 4th and other 5th generation aircraft. “We need to ensure that we have the ability to integrate them fully into our gaming plan, into our exercise and most importantly into our ability to operate if we need to go to war,” said Umholtz. U.S. Army Europe Soldiers from the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command will also conduct training of their patriot surface-to-air missile system, capable of preventing enemies from effectively employing their offensive air and missile weapons. A rotational presence of U.S. military in the European theater enforces the U.S. commitment to regional security. The U.S. military’s ability to quickly respond rests upon the fact that U.S. forces are in Europe engaged, postured and ready with credible force to assure, deter and defend. The U.S. and Europe are mutually committed to confronting strategic challenges together. Multinational exercises, like Astral Knight, improve overall coordination between NATO allies and partner militaries to deter adversaries and defend regional security in an increasingly complex environment.