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RAF supports US fighter jets on training exercise

Joe Giddens

By Sam Russell, PA

American fighter jets have flown from an RAF air base, supported by UK ground crews, as part of a training exercise.

The three-day Mission Assurance Exercise saw 22 US F-15 warplanes fly 32 missions per day, operating from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and two US air bases in Suffolk – Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Heard, chief of plans and programmes with the United States Air Force’s (USAF) 48th Fighter Wing, stationed at Lakenheath, said the exercise aimed to “enhance the wing’s capabilities to conduct and sustain operations at two off-base locations”.

The 12 F-15E Strike Eagles and 10 F-15C Eagles, all stationed at Lakenheath, trained using what USAF calls agile combat employment (ACE) concepts.

These are ways to launch and maintain planes away from main US air bases, using alternative locations.

“Globally, threats and operational environments are evolving rapidly,” said Lt Col Heard.

“The ACE concept is intended to increase the operational capability available to ensure and enhance security and stability across Europe.

“This is not a new concept. However, the threat has evolved. Adversaries can threaten our bases with conventional methods, so we must again adapt how we do business and be prepared to react as required should deterrence fail.”

He said the training exercise was the “first-ever application of the ACE concept with USAF forces operating out of an RAF base during simulated conflict”.

The exercise, running from Tuesday to Thursday, involves flights over the North Sea and approved Ministry Of Defence training areas.

Colonel Jason Camilletti, 48th Fighter Wing commander, said: “ACE means fighting on the move, with small units and small footprints.

“Exercising elements of ACE enables US forces in Europe to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support, ensuring airmen and aircrews are postured to deliver lethal combat power across the spectrum of military operations.”

RAF Coningsby’s station commander, Group Captain Matt Peterson, said: “I am delighted to welcome our colleagues from the United States Air Force to RAF Coningsby.

“Our two air forces share a long and distinguished history of co-operation, achievement and joint sacrifice.

“For example, in World War Two US airman Lieutenant Carl Joseph Van-Horn sadly died flying from Coningsby on D-Day in 1944.

“The Typhoon squadrons based here train weekly with our colleagues from RAF Lakenheath over the North Sea, deepening our understanding of how our respective forces operate; honing the skills required to operate in coalitions around the world.

“Hosting the Strike Eagles here is part of that ongoing process that further strengthens the already close ties between our stations.”

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