U.S. Airmen, equipment, and F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 157th Fighter Squadron, 169th Fighter Wing, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Columbia, S.C., arrived at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, May 17for the first day of Arctic Challenge Exercise 19 taking place throughout Norway, Sweden and Finland.
ACE19 is a biennial Nordic aviation exercise that provides a realistic training environment essential for increasing global response and interoperability between multinational forces. This year is the fourth iteration of the Swedish-led training exercise.
Service members from the South Carolina, Massachusetts, Iowa and New Jersey Air National Guard are a share of the military personnel training throughout the Nordic region. Additionally, KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft from the 174th Air Refueling Squadron, 185th Refueling Wing, Colonel Bud Day Field, Sioux City, Iowa, and the 141st Air Refueling Squadron, 108th Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and F-15C Eagle aircraft from the 131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Mass., will participate.
In addition to the U.S., this year’s participants include Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
“There’s some unique training airspace we don’t get to train with in South Carolina. Being just 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the high latitude means nearly 20 hours of daylight. That together with the cool weather, will set us up for some essential training.” said Maj. Shaun Hoeltje, F-16 pilot from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard.
This year’s exercise is intended to more closely resemble a flag-level exercise. Historically, flag-level exercises have provided vital, scenario-based training in realistic environments to prepare forces for enemy defensive systems.
“The SEAD mission, suppression of enemy air defenses, is a fairly unique mission in the Air National Guard. Practicing air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics with our allied partners is essential to being able to respond to any threat, and ensure global support to operations,” Hoeltje said.
The U.S. Air Force will support the development of this European-based exercise by leveraging individual expertise and contributing to discussions about command and control, information sharing, secure communications and scenario development.