USAF aircraft arrive in Finland and Lithuania for Astral Knight 23

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U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Airmen and aircraft based in the European theater kicked off Astral Knight 23 Part 6 at initial forward operating bases in Finland and Lithuania.

AK23-6 will incorporate all USAFE-AFAFRICA flying wings along with the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and focus on Agile Combat Employment proactive and reactive asset movements, as well as ground and aerial interoperability training. The exercise is scheduled to take place from Aug. 18-31, 2023. 

“Astral Knight will continue to strengthen Ally and Partner interoperability while validating new ways to deploy and maneuver assets during a crisis or conflict,” said Lt. Gen. John D. Lamontagne, deputy commander United States Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. “Regular exercises, like AK, and our permanent forward presence are essential to projecting a credible deterrence to any future act of aggression against the alliance.”

The exercise began with a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, and a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, arriving at Rovaniemi Air Base, Finland, to fly operations in the Arctic.

At the same time, F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 48th FW, RAF Lakenheath, England, F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 31st FW, Aviano AB, Italy, and a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th ARW, RAF Mildenhall, England, arrived at ┼áiauliai AB, Lithuania, to fly operations in the Baltics.

Distributed aviation operations are foundational to combating potential adversary threats as they enable forces to disperse quickly while continuing to deliver air power from locations with varying levels of capacity and support. Distributed operations shift missions from centralized physical infrastructures to a network of smaller, dispersed locations where U.S. forces can maintain effective operations, whether that be in a contested and/or degraded environment.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s focus on strengthening interoperability between nations through routine exercises like AK23-6 has furthered our ability to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support while ensuring Airmen and aircrews are postured to respond across the spectrum of conflict.

For more information, contact USAFE/PA at +49 (0) 6371-47-6558 or via e-mail at