US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles have successfully completed their second set of forward deployments to Bulgaria and Romania during exercise Castle Forge, returning to Greece on November 6, 2021. Two groups of US fighters forward deployed from Larissa Air Base (AB), Greece with one group operating in Bulgaria and the other in Romania. This training exercise allowed aircrew and support staffs to perform rapid movements between airfields and practise logistical operations at these new locations. In addition to practicing fighter-to-fighter communications and integration procedures with Bulgarian, Romanian and Canadian fighters, the exercise provided opportunities for air-maritime integration.
Over the week-long detachment, the US F-15s were able to work with U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet ships, the USS Porter and USS Mount Whitney, who were operating in the Black Sea. During a protected entry mission, the F-15Es integrated with a Greek EMB-145 and a Turkish E-7T Peace Eagle, which were providing airborne surveillance and command and control.
“Castle Forge continues to demonstrate the value of working alongside allies, not only for airpower but across the entire spectrum of military operations,” said General Jeff Harrigian, NATO Allied Air Command Commander. “We are proving that our forces are more flexible, more cohesive, and more capable when we train together,” he added.
The Strike Eagles arrived in Europe for Castle Forge on October 6, 2021. They initially conducted training alongside the Hellenic Air Force at Larissa Air Base, Greece, from October 11-17, 2021. Subsets of the unit then forward deployed to Graf Ignatievo AB, Bulgaria, and Borcea AB, Romania, from October 18-25, 2021 to exercise Agile Combat Employment and conduct vital training alongside Allied air forces. The F-15Es returned to Larissa AB, Greece before launching the second forward dispersals to the same locations. The aircraft have now returned to Larissa AB where they continue operations alongside the Hellenic Air Force.