by 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/20/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Airmen
and aircraft assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing departed Aviano Air
Base, Italy, March 20, 2015 to participate in bilateral training with
the Estonian air force and simultaneous but unrelated training with the
Finnish and Swedish air forces in their airspace.
The 510th Fighter Squadron will launch sorties from Ämari Air Base,
Estonia, March 20 through April 17. Training with the Estonian air force
will take place on nearby Tapa Range with Estonian Joint Terminal
Attack Controllers. The focus is to maintain joint readiness while
enhancing interoperability with a NATO ally, particularly in the F-16
Fighting Falcon's Forward Air Controller (Airborne) mission. The other
training event with the Finnish and Swedish air forces will focus on
air-to-air tactics that also increases interoperability.
"Through these strengthened relationships and engagements with our
allies and partners, the U.S. demonstrates its shared commitment to a
safe and secure Eastern Europe," said Lt. Col. Christopher Austin, 510th
FS commander. "Even as we're strengthening ties with our proven,
indispensable European partners, the training conducted is going to
enhance our ability to employ our aircraft as multi-role fighters."
Approximately 280 Airmen and 14 Vipers from Team Aviano will work
alongside their Estonian partners, who have become a key example of
pursuing the smart defense endorsed by Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme
Allied Commander Europe and Gen. Frank Gorenc, NATO Allied Air Command
and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander.
"The FAC (A) mission is one of the most challenging missions we engage
in," said Austin. "It enables us to provide precision support to troops
in contact with the enemy, and training on it with our Estonian partners
leverages specialization--a cornerstone of smart defense."
Estonia first hosted U.S. Air Force aircraft during the second Baltic
Challenge in 1997 when a C-130 Hercules landed at Ämari. This exercise
was a key Partnership for Peace program training event. Estonia,
Finland, and Sweden all joined the PFP in 1994, and membership has grown
to 22 countries today. Estonia joined NATO in 2004, and in September
2009, Tallinn International Airport hosted 2 F-15E Strike Eagles from
the 494th FS for a NATO training exercise. Ämari welcomed A-10 Warthogs
from the Michigan Air National Guard in June 2012 for Saber Strike.
This month's training opportunity with the Finnish and Swedish air
forces is another important step in growing the scope and success of
U.S. Air Force's "Forward-Ready-Now!" posture in the European theater,
and affords the 31st FW Wyverns another tremendous opportunity to hone
their operational skills from a forward operating location.