Approximately 200 U.S. Air Force Airmen and seven F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, are participating in Blue Flag 2017 at Uvda Air Base, Israel, which kicked off Nov. 6.
The third iteration of a biennial Israeli-hosted exercise, Blue Flag 17 is a multinational live-fly training event aimed at improving coordination, integration and tactical effectiveness between U.S., Israel and six other partner nation air forces.
Throughout the duration of Blue Flag, pilots from each nation fly together on a variety of training missions.
“We started with simple missions to get used to the local area, working together, and the administrative coming and going from the airspace,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin Freeborn, 510th Fighter Squadron commander, “and then we are continually layering complexity onto these simple missions.”
Practice missions include defensive counter air operations, interdiction, large-force exercises and electronic warfare range work.
“The ranges they have here are nothing like we have back home in Italy,” Freeborn said. “[The Israelis] have very realistic targets and surface threats that we can train against.”
The exercise also gives participating nations an opportunity to perform ground and flying operations in new surroundings.
“The opportunity to fly out of an unfamiliar airfield, in unfamiliar airspace, with a broadly different group of partners is really priceless training,” Freeborn said.
“It’s a great test for the aircrew especially,” he continued, “and having to generate sorties from an airfield without all of the home station support is a great test for our maintenance and logistics personnel too. It’s a high pace for everyone while we’re here.”
The U.S. Air Force regularly participates in training exercises such as Blue Flag. Multinational training exercises are an integral part of maintaining interoperability, as well as ensuring all participating nations can work together seamlessly if called upon in the future.