U.S. F-16s From Aviano Take Part In Exercise “Agile Buzzard”

One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (All images credit: Alessandro Caglieri).

U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.

Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.

Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.

According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.

Four Aviano F-16s on the visual pattern at “Deci”. (All images credit: Alessandro Caglieri).

“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.

Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.

The three green stars on #89-2137 represent the three J-21s this F-16 shot down over the Balkans on Feb. 28, 1994.

For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.

The photographs in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Caglieri. Among them, you can see some shots of two interesting aircraft: the F-16C AF 87-0355 sporting several bomb markings and F-16C AF 89-2137 with three green stars that celebrate the three Republika Srpska Air Force J-21 Jastreb jets shot down by the aircraft during a Deny Flight mission over Bosnia on Feb. 28, 1994, with one AIM-120 AMRAAM and two AIM-9Ms.

F-16C 87-0355 landing at Decimomannu. Note the kill markings just above the gun area.



About David Cenciotti 3941 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.