The USAFE 52nd Operations Group Detachment 1 – as the 12 Aviono F-16s and 200 personnel are called – officially hopes “to enhance interoperability, allowing pilots to take advantage of a unique opportunity to operate across the range of military operations with precise full-spectrum capabilities”.
Lt. Col. John Peterson, the 555th Fighter Squadron commander. “When we execute operations in possible real-world situations, we need to have taken the opportunity to train with our fellow NATO nations. In this case, having been invited by the Polish government to train with Polish air force counterparts, it’s a unique opportunity for us to combine forces.”
On the first day of flying, 16 pilots were sent up just to familiarise themselves in the new environment and procedures. As the training continues, the scenarios become more complex, allowing pilots to exercise their capabilities to a comprehensive extent.
Aerial training will continue with the integration of Polish F-16s to strengthen U.S. and Polish communication and combine in-flight tactics.
LATEST UPDATE 17 MARCH 2014 | Twelve USAFE 555th Fighter Squadron F-16s from Aviano Airbase, Italy, have landed on Lask Airbase on 14 and 15 March 2014, together with approximately 200 personnel assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing.
On 6 March 2014 Polish sources already reported the news that the US was sending twelve F-16 Fighting Falcons on exercise to Lask airbase in central Poland next week. The exercise was originally only supposed to involve transport aircraft, but its scope was apparently broadened as a reponse to the Ukrainian and Crimean crisis.
Lask is home to Polands 10 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego and houses half of the country’s modern block 52 F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fleet. Last week, Poland was one of the first NATO countries to ask for NATO-talks about the conflict between its eastern neighbour Ukraine and Russia, resulting in the Russian annexation of the Crimea peninsula.
Apart from twelve F-16s, the US is also sending 300 troops to the exercise. Earlier, the USAF decided on sending six F-15C Eagles from RAF Lakenheath’s 493rd fighter squadron to Šiauliai Airbase in Lithuania, on top of four aircraft already based here for the Baltic Air Policing mission. A single KC-135R tanker aircraft is joining those aircraft as well.
On 10 March Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said there was no decision made yet on the number of aircraft, but that the USAFE would provide the fighters. Ten US Air Force personnel are stationed at Lask Air Base in Poland to support quarterly rotations of USAF F-16s and C-130s for joint training with the Polish air force. The rotations come from the 52nd Fighter Wing based in Spangdahlem, Germany, with four annual aircraft based at Lask for two weeks in a row.