Arctic Challenge exercise aims to increase interoperability Published May 26, 2017 By Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel DoD News, Defense Media Activity ROVANIEMI AIR BASE, Finland (AFNS) -- Twelve F-15C Eagles and about 200 personnel from the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and two KC-135 Stratotankers and over 30 personnel from the 351st Air Refueling Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, deployed to bases in Finland and Sweden for exercise Arctic Challenge 2017. Multinational exercise Arctic Challenge, a multinational training exercise, began May 19, 2017, and runs until June 2. The exercise aims at building relationships and increasing interoperability, and includes participants from the U.S., Finland, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands, as well as representatives from NATO. Increase interoperability "The primary objective for us is to work together with our partner nations and allies to increase our interoperability capabilities as a force," said Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, the 493rd FS commander. Zumwalt added, "These practice opportunities and experiences allow our pilots and maintainers to work together side-by-side with our partners and allies to plan, execute and debrief some very complex missions. That allows us to see how we can better work together in the future." Over the next two weeks, Arctic Challenge participants will conduct live-flying events to train on offensive and defensive air combat operations. They will practice evaluating aircraft, personnel and weapons capabilities, as well as mobilizing and training in multinational operations. Working together "Being able to work closely, face to face, side by side, and coordinate our actions together to achieve a common goal provides excellent training for everyone involved,” Zumwalt said. Through training exercises like Arctic Challenge, the U.S., allies and partner nations can build on their expertise in the air, creating a credible force prepared to effectively respond to any crisis together.