Arctic Challenge Exercise 21 concludes: mission successful

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ali Stewart
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing spent the past month at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, to participate in the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021, which took place June 2-18.

Over the course of 45 days, members from the 52nd FW prepared, set up assets and tackled the obstacles that come with moving over 300 Airmen to another country for a multinational exercise.

“The Swedish air force has been amazing in their support to our mission,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shaun Loomis, 480th Fighter Squadron commander. “This deployment to Kallax AB has provided the 480th with the opportunity to train to mission sets which are normally limited in Germany due to airspace and range constraints.”

During the exercise the 480th FS flew around 450 sorties, mostly integrated with Swedish and other allied air forces.

Additionally, the opportunity to integrate alongside several European allies and partners bolstered the force’s readiness to fight and respond as a coalition, Loomis said.

For the first time, this year’s iteration included Norway’s F-35 Lightning II, which brought unique 5th generation Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses and Large Force Exercise training opportunities.
Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 garnered 3,000 personnel from across various air forces building interoperability between Nordic NATO allies and partners, with 60 fighter aircraft and 10 support aircraft participating.

“There is a massive air space complex with very few limitations and restrictions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Epperson, 52nd Fighter Wing commander. “We have been able to seamlessly integrate into these missions and achieve much more than any of us could achieve individually as nations.”

On June 15, U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, visited the Norrbotten Wing at Kallax Air Base to learn about ACE21 from the Swedish perspective and observe the 480th FS integration with partner nations.

“This is a great opportunity to work with some very important partners,” said Harrigian. “There have been a myriad of opportunities with respect to who we are training with and how we train, and ultimately it gets us comfortable in operating in this part of the world.”

The mission of ACE21 is to provide participating units to integrate in training scenarios against a high-end adversary, with all possible aspects of air operations, including offensive and defensive scenarios consisting of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

“The teamwork and the partners that Arctic Challenge pulled together is a strong group of nations that will work hard to ensure that this region remains secure and stable,” said Harrigian.