Colombian and US Air Forces Hold Joint Exercise Relampago VI in Rionegro, Colombia
Colombian and US Air Forces Hold Joint Exercise Relampago VI in Rionegro, Colombia

Colombian and US Air Forces Hold Joint Exercise Relampago VI in Rionegro, Colombia

The skies roared with the sounds of U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and Colombian Air Force Kfir. Sounds that are not usually heard in a small mountain community in South America. Far from home and familiar territory, Airmen from all over the United States journeyed to Colombia and transformed a contingency location to conduct theatre training as well as joint, coalition and partnered missions during the course of a major international exercise.

Airmen and pilots assigned to the 474th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron and 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respectively, dedicated themselves to techniques, tactics and procedures to strengthen the longstanding partnership between our countries during Exercise Relampago VI at CACOM 5 in Rionegro, Colombia, throughout the month of July.During Relampago VI, the established NATO partnership between Colombia and the United States allows for combat-ready pilots to integrate training and flying missions on multiple airframes.

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A U.S. Air Force pilot assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron lifts the canopy of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during Exercise Relampago VI at Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) in Rionegro, Colombia, July 13, 2021.
A U.S. Air Force pilot assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron lifts the canopy of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during Exercise Relampago VI at Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) in Rionegro, Colombia, July 13, 2021.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Duncan C. Bevan)

“We’ll be practicing close air tactics, fighter fundamentals, and advanced tactics. We’re going to push the limits to see that both of our air forces and our talented pilots hone their skills to be that much better. But what I’m most looking forward to seeing is that glow and pride from our Airmen knowing they are part of something special and that they both contributed and benefited from its success,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. William McDowell, 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and 474th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander.

The flying conducted during Relampago VI includes cooperative training on basic fighter maneuvering and air combat maneuvering, but the exercise mirrors powerful real-world implications in maintaining regional security with training sorties focused on developing defensive counter air tactics and large force exercises. Relampago VI will essentially be replicating certain threats, for the Colombian Air Force, this opportunity has allowed for more interaction with partners who are experienced fighter pilots, having flown in a multitude of engagements and global theaters.

A Colombian Air Force Kfir assigned to Comando Aereo de Combate No.1 (CACOM 1) takes off during Exercise Relampago VI at Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) in Rionegro, Colombia, July 13, 2021.
A Colombian Air Force Kfir assigned to Comando Aereo de Combate No.1 (CACOM 1) takes off during Exercise Relampago VI at Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) in Rionegro, Colombia, July 13, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Duncan C. Bevan)

The exercise presented challenges to the newly assembled 79th EFS and 474th EOSS Airmen who made necessary modifications with regards to respecting and embracing the terrain, language, and customs from operating in a foreign country. The ongoing learning process led to opportunities for the 474th EOSS to derive strategy and implement previous home station training to conduct successful logistics operations working in tandem with Colombian partners.

The logistics operations began with working alongside airfield management officials at Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, which hosts a shared runway for military and civilian aircraft. 474th EOSS Airmen installed a mobile aircraft arresting system and transformed a small area of CACOM 5 to be able to prepare, launch, and recover combat training sorties of both the U.S. Air Force F-16 and the Colombian Air Force KFIR. During the month-long exercise, the commitment to mutually beneficial cooperation with Colombia and its citizens echoes enduring promises between partners and will allow for a valuable and memorable experience for both forces.

A U.S. Air Force 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot prepares to land an F-16 Fighting Falcon on the runway during Exercise Relampago VI at Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) in Rionegro, Colombia, July 14, 2021.
A U.S. Air Force 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot prepares to land an F-16 Fighting Falcon on the runway during Exercise Relampago VI at Comando Aereo de Combate Number 5 (CACOM 5) in Rionegro, Colombia, July 14, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Gutierrez)
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