January 27, 2015 (by SSgt. Joe McFadden) - Over the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the Greek and U.S. Air Forces continue bilateral flying training missions at Souda Bay, Greece.
A HAF F-16 from 343 Mira lands on the runway at Souda Bay on January 26th, 2015. The aircraft flew during training operations as part of a flying training deployment between the Greek and USAF at Souda Bay. [USAF photo by SSgt. Joe W. McFadden]
The training, which began Jan. 16 and will run through Feb. 13, aims to bolster the nations' warfighting capabilities through combined air operations as well as maintain joint readiness between the two NATO
The pre-planned training engagement between the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the Hellenic Air Force
's 115th Combat Wing represents U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa's third flying training deployment held on the island of Crete since 2014.
“Successful partnering activities like this lead to tangible benefits during peacetime contingencies and crises," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc, USAFE-AFAFRICA commander, regarding the 494th Fighter Squadron's FTD to Souda Bay in February 2014. "Continuing our partnership with the Hellenic air force allows both nations to enhance interoperability and readiness. Any opportunity our forces have to fly in new airspace with one of our NATO partners is beneficial. No nation can confront today’s challenges alone.”
This FTD includes approximately 300 personnel from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem, Air Base, Germany, who will fly, maintain or support operations involving 18 of the wing's F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, while evaluating both aircraft and personnel capabilities.
The F-16s, augmenting USAFE
's ‘Forward, Ready, Now!’ posture, conduct multiple flying sorties alongside those from the 115th CW's 340th and 343rd Fighter Squadrons.
"In the air, our fighter pilots have conducted very intense air-to-air training with HAF
pilots, honing each other’s combat flying skills while improving our ability to operate as a bilateral airpower team," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Berkland, 480th EFS commander. "It’s our second FTD to Souda Bay in six months, and, at this point, we’ve built a rock-solid relationship with our HAF partners."
The training opportunity also represents another chapter in the countries' continuing military partnership -- one that dates back to the early 19th century when Americans backed the Greek’s fight for independence against the Ottoman Empire.
"It is a strong belief that this kind of training experiences will further strengthen the existing bonds between Greece
and the United States and increase our NATO military capability," said Hellenic air force Col. Ioannis Gerolymos, 115th CW commander. "Such combined Greek-U.S. Air Force exercises have enhanced the warfighting capabilities of both U.S. and Greek forces; we continually learn from and improve upon each other's tactics, techniques and procedures."