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Airmen test skills in first 'Arctic Challenge'

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle finishes refueling with a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 12, 2013, en route to the Arctic Challenge exercise. The F-15C, in coordination with fighters from Norway, Sweden, Finland and the U.K., provided the air-to-air attack element in many of the scenarios during the exercise.

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle finishes refueling with a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 12, 2013, en route to the Arctic Challenge exercise. The F-15C, in coordination with fighters from Norway, Sweden, Finland and the U.K., provided the air-to-air attack element in many of the scenarios during the exercise.

A pilot and a weapons systems operator in a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 17, 2013, over Norway during the Arctic Challenge exercise. The exercise afforded pilots from various European nations the chance to fly and practice aerial combat maneuvers with partner nations.

A pilot and a weapons systems operator in a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 17, 2013, over Norway during the Arctic Challenge exercise. The exercise afforded pilots from various European nations the chance to fly and practice aerial combat maneuvers with partner nations.

Staff Sgt. Keith Shaff, 100th Air Refueling Wing flying crew chief, conducts a pre-flight inspection on a KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 16, 2013, on Main Air Station Ørland, Norway. Shaff and other maintainers kept aircraft ready to carry out a multitude of missions during the Arctic Challenge exercise, which included participation from Sweden, Finland, the U.K., Norway, the U.S. and NATO.

Staff Sgt. Keith Shaff, 100th Air Refueling Wing flying crew chief, conducts a pre-flight inspection on a KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 16, 2013, on Main Air Station Ørland, Norway. Shaff and other maintainers kept aircraft ready to carry out a multitude of missions during the Arctic Challenge exercise, which included participation from Sweden, Finland, the U.K., Norway, the U.S. and NATO.

2nd Lt. Christopher Hickman, left, and Staff Sgt. Curtis McKee, 100th Air Refueling Wing, remove engine covers on a KC-135R Stratotanker prior to its disembarkment Sept. 16, 2013, for the Arctic Challenge exercise “play zones” over northern Norway. The 100th ARW provided all the aerial refueling for the exercise.

2nd Lt. Christopher Hickman, left, and Staff Sgt. Curtis McKee, 100th Air Refueling Wing, remove engine covers on a KC-135R Stratotanker prior to its disembarkment Sept. 16, 2013, for the Arctic Challenge exercise “play zones” over northern Norway. The 100th ARW provided all the aerial refueling for the exercise.

Two Norwegian F-16AM Fighting Falcons conduct an engine run-up prior to take off Sept. 16, 2013, on Main Air Station Orland, Norway. Norway hosted the Arctic Challenge exercise from Sept. 16 to 26 as a way for countries in the area to practice aerial tactics together without their people and equipment having to travel far away.

Two Norwegian F-16AM Fighting Falcons conduct an engine run-up prior to take off Sept. 16, 2013, on Main Air Station Orland, Norway. Norway hosted the Arctic Challenge exercise from Sept. 16 to 26 as a way for countries in the area to practice aerial tactics together without their people and equipment having to travel far away.

Two Finnish Air Force F-18C Hornets prepare to refuel with a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 17, 2013, over Norway during the Arctic Challenge exercise. The Hornets formed a “Red Team” strike package with six F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing as they attempted to “raid” an enemy command post during this portion of the exercise.

Two Finnish Air Force F-18C Hornets prepare to refuel with a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker Sept. 17, 2013, over Norway during the Arctic Challenge exercise. The Hornets formed a “Red Team” strike package with six F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing as they attempted to “raid” an enemy command post during this portion of the exercise.

Four U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles fly in formation after refueling Sept. 12, 2013, on their way to the Arctic Challenge exercise in Norway. The F-15C, in coordination with fighters from other nations, provided the air-to-air attack element in many of the scenarios during the exercise.

Four U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles fly in formation after refueling Sept. 12, 2013, on their way to the Arctic Challenge exercise in Norway. The F-15C, in coordination with fighters from other nations, provided the air-to-air attack element in many of the scenarios during the exercise.

ØRLAND, Norway (AFNS) --

The first Exercise Arctic Challenge, which includes more than 60 aircraft from five partner nations, here began Sept. 16.

 

Norwegian F-16 Fighting Falcons, Swedish JAS-39 Gripens, Finnish F/A-18 Hornets and U.K. Eurofighter Typhoons took to the skies with U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, F-15C Eagles and KC-135 Stratotankers to train in a combined environment. They incorporated both strategic planning and tactical war fighting simulations, practicing in-flight maneuvers and communication strategies with each other.

 

Two NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft also joined in to provided aerial combat command for the dueling aircraft further simulating a real combat scenario.

 

"(Our) air force has, in periods, had the need to train at bigger scenarios with more aircraft, and this is difficult in Norway, with only our own planes at (our)disposal," said Col. Baid Solheim, Main Air Station Bodø base commander. "Before the cross border training we had to deploy to foreign, far away countries to fly against other types of aircraft, [now] we fly directly from Bodø. In this way it's very efficient in costs."

 

The Arctic Challenge exercise focused on bringing the Scandinavian nations, the U.S. and the U.K. together in the air, to challenge pilots to react quickly and work together to achieve common goals. During times of maximum participation, more than 60 aircraft are expected to partake in the war-fighting scenarios.

 

"During this exercise, we will face almost every scenario that could be seen in any war or conflict," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Rich Stringer, 494th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and lead project officer for the 48th Fighter Wing's participation in the exercise. The different aircraft will take turns as the aggressors and will be tested on how they can respond to a variety of scenarios, according to Stringer.

 

The purpose of this exercise is to train air forces to operate cohesively. Arctic Challenge, in particular, allows multiple nations to perform aerial operations simultaneously; give critical feedback on how to improve processes; and become a more efficient and effective force -- especially in a multi-national environment.

 

"These exercises provide the U.S. and NATO forces an opportunity to integrate their operations at both the tactical and strategic levels with a high level of fidelity that could not otherwise be achieved without live-fly exercises," said Capt. Timothy Gerne, 100th Operations Support Squadron chief of wing weapons and tactics and director of operations for the 100th Air Refueling Wing portion of the exercise. "Similar to a Red Flag exercise in mission sets, large force numbers and multinational integration, the benefits of hosting locally allows us and our allies to focus resources toward operations."

 

In addition to flying with allies, Airmen on MAS Bodø and MAS Ørland combined the exercise with a simulated deployment. The movement tested many assets in U.S. Air Forces in Europe including air lift, medical, legal and financial services.

 

"This exercise improves the readiness of everyone because of the variety of scenarios and the high level of skill that we are flying with and against," said Stringer. "The Finns, Swedes, British, and Norwegians are all very skilled aviators and have very competent forces."

 

The Arctic Challenge exercise is scheduled to continue until Sept. 26, before culminating in a final scenario which tests the pilots on their ability to operate in a diverse force.