Military News

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

U.S., Royal Moroccan Air Forces go wheels-up for Exercise African Lion

by Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams
United States Air Forces in Europe

5/22/2015 - BEN GUERIR AIR BASE, Morocco -- Six F-16 Fighter Falcon aircraft pilots assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron in Spangdahlem, Germany and support assets are deployed to participate in joint and combined air training during Exercise African Lion 15-22 May here.

African Lion is the largest Department of Defense exercise in Africa. This year marks this first time the U.S. Air Force is participating in the U.S. Marine Corps led exercise. The U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen will also train. These Airmen will fly with the Royal Moroccan air force F-16 pilots. German Armed Forces, British Armed Forces, Netherlands, Belgium, Senegal and Tunisia are also participating.

"The Royal Moroccan Air Force has been very gracious during this important engagement," said Col. Pierre Oury, air exercise training director. The Royal Moroccan Air Force is one of our most reliable partners on the African continent, so we want to make sure to interoperate with them and share our techniques, tactics, procedures and also experiences. There's a lot of learning going on, on both sides."

Training will include first-time Royal Moroccan air force in-flight air refueling with U.S. tankers and emergency landing barrier training. These training opportunities enhance interoperability between the two units, in turn, gaining a better understanding of each other's operations.

"U.S. and Royal Moroccan Air Forces have a long standing friendship and an exercise like this reinforces those mutual bonds," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Dave Atkinson, air exercise training detachment commander. "The opportunity to fly together allows us to demonstrate that we can operate concurrently in the same airspace and work together for a common goal."

Oury explained how the pilots will communicate in the airspace seamlessly during these flying missions.

"We have new digital link capabilities being used where Moroccan and U.S. jets will be able to see each other on their scopes." Oury said. "Also, air to ground sorties has also been added to the training mission where in times past only air to air was accomplished."

The week-long training is loaded with practical operations training geared to challenge the two militaries and streamline the allies' flight processes.

"Exercise African Lion showcases how we can work jointly together, which is the most important," Atkinson said. "We make sure all systems are working and we're speaking the same language, not English but the same aviation and tactical language. This exercise really helps with that process."

The exercise will end with a joint banquet of both nations' personnel celebration the goals reached during the week-long training.

Oury shared his thoughts on a good ending note.

"True mission success will be once we reach all of our training objectives with our partners and we have a safe re-deployment back home."

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