June 5, 2013 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Six F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard 140th Wing along with more than 60 ground personnel took off from Buckley Air Force Base early Tuesday morning on en route to a military training exercise in Jordan.
Airman assigned to the 140th AMXS guides F-16C block 30 #86-0370 from the 120th FS prior to a training mission in support of an ORE at Buckley AFB on January 20th, 2012. [USAF photo by TSgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf]
US defense secretary Chuck Hagel had authorized the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air (SAM
) missiles and US F-16 fighter jets during the forthcoming Exercise Eager Lion 2013 in Jordan
. Eager Lion is a major bilateral strategic theater cooperation exercise between Jordan and the U.S. focusing on irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency.
Some of the weapons are also expected to stay beyond the exercise at the government's request, to help counter the threat posed by Syria's civil war. The Syrian uprising started out as peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011, but quickly devolved into an armed insurgency in response to the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on dissent. The two-year-old civil war is estimated to have killed 80,000 people.
Scheduled to be conducted for two weeks across Jordan, Exercise Eager Lion 2013 will involve participation from 15,000 personnel from 18 countries, including Bahrain
, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt
, France, Iraq
, Lebanon, Pakistan
, Qatar, Turkey
, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the UAE
, as well as the US and the UK. Israel
will not participate.
The Patriot batteries, designed to intercept short-range missiles, are believed to be used for imposing a no-fly-zone over Damascus and other air operations.
The US Department of Defense (DOD
) has already deployed a US Army headquarters unit to help the country prepare for possible military action in Syria, including scenarios to secure the regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
Jordan has hosted two previous “Eager Lion” exercises in June 2011 and May 2012. Those involved more than 19 countries, including the United States.