AMENDOLA AIR BASE, Italy --
U.S. Airmen and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron attended NATO exercise Falcon Strike 22 from November 14-18, 2022, at Amendola Air Base, Italy.
Falcon Strike 22 was designed to test and improve the ability of NATO nations to conduct multinational offensive and defensive air operations that integrate fourth and fifth-generation airpower.
“Falcon Strike was a great opportunity to learn how we can better complement each other airborne,” said Capt. Kim “Slice” Auton, 555th FS F-16 pilot.
In order to practice multigenerational airpower integration, the 555th FS pilots flew F-16s alongside F-35s from the United States, Netherlands and Italy. They took on both offensive and defensive roles in mock battles with and against the F-35s, allowing 555th FS pilots to learn how best to utilize their fourth generation aircraft in accordance with the latest airpower technology.
“This was my first time participating in Falcon Strike and also my first time integrating with both Dutch and Italian platforms,” said Auton. “Working with the F-35s has helped us practice how we can better utilize our capabilities against modern day threats.”
In addition to coordinating the strengths of different aircraft, Falcon Strike also offered participants a chance to learn about the tactics and methods of allied NATO nations. This included having to work around a language barrier between the three participating nations.
“There are certain tactics we do similarly and certain tactics we do completely different based on our aircraft capabilities,” said Auton. “It was also important for us to be disciplined and precise on the radio since all platforms were communicating on one frequency.”
Multinational training was not restricted to just the skies. As pilots from varied nations flew together above, maintainers worked together on the ground to keep the aircraft flying. They conducted multinational cross-servicing exercises, where maintainers from different nations worked together on the same aircraft to demonstrate their techniques and standards.
“I really enjoyed seeing all the maintainers from different nations working together on the aircraft to make sure they took off,” said Senior Airman Grayson Book, 555th Fighter Generation Squadron avionics systems journeyman.
This cross-servicing allowed maintainers to not only learn new methods for maintaining aircraft, but it also helps standardize maintenance procedures across allied nations to ensure any maintainer can service any allied aircraft, regardless of their nationality.
“I enjoyed seeing the neighboring countries side by side in each hanger,” said Book. “We now have a lot of good, growing NATO relationships.”
Whether in the air or on the ground, Falcon Strike 22 presented an opportunity for NATO nations to bridge the gap between nations and airpower generations alike as well as strengthen their alliances.
“We can only make each other better and more lethal when integrating fourth and fifth generation fighters,” said Auton. “We are always learning and pushing ourselves to get better.”