U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and Airmen assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing participated in an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise at Amendola Air Base, Italy on Feb. 16-17, 2021. During the exercise, eight F-16s from the 31st FW, two U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, six Italian air force F-35s, and six Italian Air Force Eurofighters trained together. The 555th and 510th Fighter Squadrons executed counter air training with the Italian air force 32 Stormo, Rome Air Squad Command. The 32 Stormo is the first European unit to acquire F-35 aircraft. Exercising elements of ACE also ensured Airmen and aircrews from the 31st FW were ready to provide lethal combat power.
By integrating multiple aircraft, aircrews were able to train for different objectives, which is critical to ensuring the collective defense of the NATO alliance. ACE exercises such as these provide the opportunity for the 31st FW to become more agile in their execution, more strategic in their deterrence, and more resilient in their capabilities. Training with joint and combined allies and partners during ACE events increased the 31st FW lethality and enhanced interoperability, while allowing the forces to counter military aggression and coercion by sharing responsibilities for common defense. It also ensured U.S Air Forces in Europe were ready for potential contingencies by allowing forces to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support.
“European partners form the backbone of USAFE’s Agile Combat Employment exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Eric Broyles, 31st Operations Group international coordination director and F-16 evaluator pilot. “Mission success is reliant not only on our partner’s infrastructure, but strengthening our vision, tactical integration, and building relationships which are cultivated in exercises such as these.”
“ACE has the opportunity to make us better maintainers because during ACE exercises we are limited on what tools and equipment we have available on location,” said Master Sgt. Tom Larson, 31 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, production superintendent. “This event gave Airmen the opportunity to think outside the box and find innovative ways to get the job done.”
The 31st Fighter Wing (31 FW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe major command and the Third Air Force. It is stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) base run by the Italian Air Force. The 31st Fighter Wing is the only United States fighter wing south of the Alps. This strategic location makes the wing important for operations in NATO’s southern region. The 31st FW maintains two F-16 fighter squadrons, the 555th Fighter Squadron and the 510th Fighter Squadron, allowing the wing to conduct offense and defensive combat air operations. In peacetime, the 31st FW prepares for its combat role by maintaining aircraft and personnel in a high state of readiness.