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Aviano F-16 crews train with international JTACs

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) -- F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing are conducting close air support training missions this week during Exercise ADRIATIC STRIKE in Postojna, Slovenia.

The CAS-focused, multinational exercise tests the interoperability and technical expertise of joint terminal attack controllers or JTACs from nine countries.

"Exercise ADRIATIC STRIKE is a perfectly tailored exercise to hone the Close Air Support skills of our pilots with international JTACs that they may operate with in real-world situations," said Colonel Anthony Abernathy, 31st Operations Group commander. "The multinational nature of many current operations demonstrates the utility of training with our allies in as realistic an environment as possible."

During the exercise, F-16s are sent each day to control the skies and simulate air strikes while international JTACs call in ordnances on simulated targets.

"Any exercise where pilots can train and interact with personnel on the ground, simulating a real-life scenario is the best training a pilot can get," said Capt. Jacob Rohrbach, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot.

The multi-role capabilities of the F-16 allows JTACs to experience the most realistic training in a controlled environment. The Slovenian government invited Austrian, Belgian, Czech, Croatian, French, Montenegrin, Latvian and Hungarian militaries to participate, along with the U.S. Air Force F-16s.

"During the training, pilots are communicating with the JTACs on the ground to gain situational awareness," explained Rohrbach. "The pilot then receives target sets from the JTACS, who have the final control authority to direct whether to simulate employment on those targets."

A significant benefit to this exercise is the proximity of Aviano to the training range where the JTACs will be conducting training. The ability of the 31st Fighter Wing pilots, aircraft and support personnel to operate from home station maximizes training effectiveness while minimizing costs.

The event's primary focus is the JTAC training, but the benefit to the 31st Fighter Wing is equally valuable to Aviano's pilots. The training emphasizes the employment of valuable F-16 close air support techniques and maneuvers in a joint environment.

"Working with the Slovenian Air Force in the planning and execution of ADRIATIC STRIKE has been an invaluable experience for me as an officer, as well as a Viper wingman," said Rohrbach. "The more multinational, large-force exercises we can be involved with, the better prepared the 31st Fighter Wing will be when called into action."