In the desert skies above Taif’s King Fahad Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Airmen from the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing integrated with Royal Saudi Air Forces to execute a combined training exercise. Conducting combined air-to-air training, the exercise allowed both nations to further cultivate strong relationships and better integrate capabilities to deter regional aggressors. With American F-16 Fighting Falcons and Saudi F-15 Strike Eagles flying side-by-side, the units utilized their time to refine procedures and forge greater interoperability between both nations.
“This visit to Taif has undoubtedly strengthened our partnership and proven our abilities to integrate with the Royal Saudi Air Force. The Saudis enabled us to validate our tactics, techniques and procedures by conducting integrated combat turns and subsequently expending live ordinances on their range,” said Col. Smith, 378th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.
“We decreased our footprint that we normally would take on a trip like this and brought pretty much just a launch and recovery team,” said Maj. Scheerer, 176th Maintenance Squadron commander. “We really tried to spread ourselves thin and see what we can do.”
“We wanted to strain ourselves and put our Airmen in that position to see how flexible we can be. This provides a great framework for the way we can operate going forward. We can see where we can make further cuts for our normal operations now knowing we can work hand-in-hand with the Saudis. It’s the face-to-face interactions for me that build a greater connection. From a maintenance perspective we all share the same pains of aircraft maintenance. An Air Force maintainer is an Air Force maintainer regardless of what Air Force you serve.,” added Master Sgt. Alex White, 176th Expeditionary Fighter Generation Squadron crew chief.
Not only did the exercise allow both nations to conduct valuable training in the air, it also allowed the U.S. to exercise their Agile Combat Employment capabilities. By utilizing their multi-capable Airmen, pre-positioned equipment and airlift operations to swiftly posture and employ forces to King Fahad Air Base, the 378th AEW reduced the number of support personnel normally required to fulfill the mission. This new way of operating provides a greater adaptability for U.S. forces and is critical to current and future missions. The experience of working closely with the RSAF gave an opportunity for both forces to understand how the partnership is built on mutual respect.