Six Aviano F-16s have deployed to Lask, in Poland, for an “exercise”
Seven U.S. Air Force F-16 and about 150 military belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing, from Aviano airbase, Italy, have deployed to Lask airbase, near Lodz, in central Poland to take part in Polish Army’s Anakonda-14o drills and conduct joint training with the Polish Air Force F-16 Block 52 jets.
Even if, the deployment to the Lask Aviation Detachment was planned months ago, this is the second rotational tour of American F-16s to Poland in 2014 (previously, the U.S. jets deployed to Lask once a year): in March, twelve F-16s and 300 military were detached to the Polish air base following the crisis in Crimea.
The aircraft are expected to remain in Poland until early October.
The exercise, due to take place until Apr. 17, is “a bilateral training whose aim is to enhance interoperability and readiness through combined air operations, including air-to-air, air-to-ground and joint tactical air controller training.”
31FW Fighting Falcons will conduct range operations and joint exercise sorties with Romanian Mig-21 Lancer (as the local, upgraded version of the Soviet Fishbed is dubbed) to enhance interoperability and give Romanian air force personnel knowledge about the F-16 flying program: last year Romania signed a contract to procure 12 F-16s from Portugal, more modern aircraft that will be used to replace the aging MiG-21s.
On Apr. 26, 2012, a Bulgarian MiG-29UB (“11″ white), involved in the Thracian Star 2012 exercise with the U.S. Air Force F-16s from Aviano, crashed into a river between the southern villages of Tsarimir and Golyam Chardak near Plovdiv, in Bulgaria.
The two pilots, Maj. Doychinov and Capt. Metodiev, ejected safely from the aircraft, and no victims or injured have been reported on the ground.
A photographer, Stoian Stoianov, caught the entire scene on photographs that were posted on a Bulgarian website.
Eight years since President George W. Bush congratulated the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia for becoming NATO members, Bulgaria and United States continue to build upon their partnership.
For the third time since 2007 the 31st FW, based at Aviano AB, Italy, is conducting training with the Bulgarian Air Force: since Apr. 17, more than two dozen aircraft and 500 U.S. Airmen (including pilots, maintainers, joint terminal air controllers, firefighters and security forces) are deployed at Graf Ignatievo to take part in Thracian Star 2012, a month-long joint training exercise focused on increasing interoperability with the Bulgarian air force.
Although this is not the first time the Bulgarian air force has hosted American forces, Thracian Star 2012 boasts the largest contingent of Airmen ever operating in Bulgaria.
What’s really impressive is that the 31st FW brought more than two dozen F-16s “about twice the amount than any other U.S. Air Forces in Europe wing thus far” in the words used by the Aviano AB press release.
Indeed, it is quite rare that a Wing sends two fighter squadrons to the same location for training purposes, a fact that measures the willingness of the U.S. to increase its presence in the East Europe, to such an extent, a relocation of the entire 31st FW from Aviano to Graf Ignatievo has been often hypothesized in the past.
Although the U.S. involvement in Libya was scaled down few days after NATO took control over the air campaign on Mar. 31, 2011, American tactical aircraft (“tacair”) played an important role during the opening stages of the Washington-led Operation Odyssey Dawn (for more details I suggest you reading the first debriefs of my Libya Air War series).
Even if U.S. planes also operated from other deployment base (RAF Mildenhall, Moron, Souda Bay, Istres), Aviano airbase, in northeast Italy, and Sigonella, in Sicily, were the two main hubs used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps assets. In particular, Aviano was mainly used by the tacair component, while “Saigon” was used by support planes (PSYOPS, tankers, etc.) and drones (both Reapers and Global Hawks).
Among the aircraft on temporary deployment to Aviano (that is the permanent base of the 31st FW’s F-16s) there were: VAQ-132 EA-18G Growlers, VAQ-140 and VMAQ-1 EA-6B Prowlers, 494FS F-15E, 81FS A-10s and 480FS F-16CJs. A Jordanian Air Force detachment operated from Aviano throughout the duration of Operation Unified Protector.
The following pictures, taken by Simone Gazzola, show some of the most interesting aircraft taking off or landing at Aviano.
Note also the “heart” shape on the background of some pictures. It’s a land-art project called Lumacuore (an Italian word formed by combining the words lumaca= snail and cuore = heart) and made between 2009 and 2010 on the side of Piancavallo mountain by the Italian artist Laura Trevisan with the aim of “spreading a cultural message on human rights, love and respect for nature as well as the environmentally friendly development of the territory.”
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