BODØ, Norway - Approximately 600 U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa airmen from three bases continue the enduring partnerships with their NATO allies and Nordic partners during the Arctic Challenge exercise 2013 (ACE-13).
The exercise is hosted by Norway, Finland and Sweden started Sept. 16, 2013, with the primary purpose of mobilizing, training and evaluating how units perform in multinational operations.
Additionally personnel and aircraft with the U.K. Royal Air Force participated.
“Just to get all the nations together in order to operate, communicate and integrate is phenomenal,” said Lt. Col. Lance Wilkins, 48th Fighter Wing detachment commander. “Operating in a de-conflicted manner is one thing, but to operate with our allies in an integrated manner is totally different.”
The cross-integration of allied nations and aircraft in the Arctic airspace provides a distinctive and vital test to ensuring the combat readiness of European air forces. ACE-13 offers units unfamiliar with the area a unique opportunity to practice in depth tactical movements on an international scale.
“To operate north of the Arctic Circle, could [add] some challenges. This training makes a realistic scenario for [participants],” said Col. Bård Solheim, 132nd Air Wing and Bodø Main Air Station commander. “We [worked] on different scenarios together, and this shows we continue to have a great relationship with NATO and the Partnership for Peace conference.”
A sentiment shared by Wilkins, “Building relationships with our NATO and regional partners gives us a common foundation. It’s been a great honor to be here.”
RAF Lakenheath’s primary objective was to safely and successfully deploy an air-to-air and air-to-ground support package for the exercise. When teamed together, the F-15E Strike Eagles and F-15C Eagles provide a distinct air combat capability.
Operating out of Bodø, the 48th Fighter Wing is just one portion of the overall U.S. Air Force presence in Norway for ACE-13. The 100th Air Refueling Wing is providing aerial refueling for the exercise and, operating out of Ørland Main Air Station and all partnering units communicate daily to guarantee all moving pieces are in sync.
“We’re using video teleconference for the other bases to integrate all forces,” said Wilkins. “As we’re face-to-face, briefing, planning and debriefing with the predominance of our exercise partners, it gives you a great foundation to build upon.”
Through large force exercises similar to ACE-13, air forces share capabilities and build relationships that will continue to strengthen and endure through future operations.
“If we’re working together in any operation, we know exactly what [our NATO allies] are bringing to the fight in a large force scenario,” said Capt. Krista Bures, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons systems officer. “Getting to know the people that are involved will help us easily integrate with them in the future.”