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F-16s help strengthen bond between US, Pakistan air forces

A Pakistan air force F-16C Fighting Falcon assigned to the No.5 Squadron, Rafiqui Air Force Base prepares for take-off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug. 17, 2016. The No. 5 Squadron travelled more than 7,700 miles to participate in Red Flag 16-4. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Frank Miller/Released)

A Pakistan Air Force F-16C prepares for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug. 17, 2016. Members of the Pakistan Air Force traveled more than 7,700 miles to participate in Red Flag 16-4. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Frank Miller)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Pakistan Air Force F-16C/D aircraft traveled more than 7,700 miles to participate in Red Flag 16-4 here from Aug. 15-26.

The training allowed the Pakistan and U.S. air forces to continue building and strengthening their relationship. It also provided them the chance to improve integration, further training and enhance the readiness of air operations.

“The F-16 has been the lynchpin in accomplishing our mutual desired objectives,” said Pakistan Air Vice Marshal Syed Noman Ali, the deputy chief of air staff. “At the strategic level it has been extremely valuable. On the capability enhancement and objective achievement on the ground, this aircraft has been the most useful.”

Pakistan brought a unique set of skills to the exercise, from their willingness to collaborate to their motivation to get the most out of the training scenarios.

“For me, it is absolutely phenomenal to have a partner who is willing to do that and looks at this as truly an opportunity to not only get better as a force within the Pakistan Air Force but also how to better integrate with everyone else,” said Maj. Gen. Rick B. Mattson, the chief of the Office of the Defense Representative, Pakistan. “That has been a major focus for the team that has been here and I have already heard about ways they are able to integrate better through technology and we will try to work on that part.”

Not only have the Pakistan pilots been impressive but also their maintenance team as well.

“I have a lot of experience in the Middle East and this is a very unique capability that they have,” Mattson said. “When you go through the maintenance facility, bays, it’s all Pakistan enlisted working on these aircrafts.”

Integration has been a major focus for Red Flag 16-4 and the Pakistan Air Force has played a key role in helping achieve that goal.

“When you have a force that is that professional and is dedicated to training and working together as a coalition you are going to get better as a group and I think that has been the biggest lesson from this,” Mattson said.

The exercise has helped both air forces learn each other’s strengths and utilizing those strengths in real-world situations.

“Whenever we’ve been together with the U.S. in terms of an exercise or other engagements it has been amazing, productive and mutually rewarding experience on both sides,” Ali said. “Whether its actual strategies that have been going on in the region or it has been exercises that train for certain events, I would expect this type of relationship to grow stronger in the future.”

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