KALLAX AIR BASE, Sweden — At the invitation of the government of Sweden, more than 150 Airmen and 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, arrived at Norbotten Wing here in support of Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015.
This year, the multinational flying exercise will include approximately 115 combat aircraft from nine countries, including the U.S., Finland, Sweden and Norway. The Arctic Challenge exercise will focus on improving interoperability with fellow air forces to prepare for any possible future challenges.
“The aim of ACE 15 is to provide a safe exercise with a large and unrestricted training area and demanding scenario,” said Col. Carl-Johan Edstrom, the Norbotten Wing deputy exercise director. “This will give participating units an extraordinary opportunity to plan, execute and evaluate large force employments in a multinational air operation.”
The exercise, larger than the first, which took place in 2013, will operate over the skies of Finland, Norway and Sweden, and as many as 90 aircraft will fly simultaneously. The exercise will allow for prompt responses on how to improve practices particularly in a multinational environment.
“The biggest and most important part of participating in ACE 15 is the interoperability with the different allied nations and partners,” said Maj. Brian Kellam, the 510th Fighter Squadron chief of advance programs and fighter pilot. “Knowing each other’s tactics is essential, so when a real situation arises, we are familiar with how each country operates; the familiarity will lead to better proficiency in our missions.”
The 510th FS hope to maintain their joint readiness and strengthen their European relationships by conducting close air support operations, air interdiction and defensive counter air scenarios during the exercise. According to Kellam, experiencing this type of large force exercise will prepare them by testing their management while flying.
“Typicallym we fly with maybe six to eight maximum aircraft daily,” Kellam said. “The exposure to operating with 90 aircraft at the same time will pay big dividends (for everyone), especially our young pilots.”
Throughout the duration of the exercise, U.S., NATO and Partners for Peace militaries will work in a joint environment to deliver unified responses for simulated contingencies. ACE 15 is scheduled to continue until June 5, before concluding with its final air operations.