US Air Force 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Bolsters NATO's Eastern Flank
US Air Force 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Bolsters NATO's Eastern Flank

US Air Force 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Bolsters NATO’s Eastern Flank

The U.S. Air Force’s 480th Air Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (480th EFS), working out of Fetesti Air Base, Romania since February 11, continues to enhance NATO’s collective defense posture, supporting NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission with F-16 Fighting Falcons, critical to the cohesive defense of the Alliance. The 480th EFS is the only U.S. fighter squadron, located in Germany. In the dynamic air environment, the Alliance faces today, the 480th EFS flexible and scalable capabilities are vital to NATO’s defensive posture. Currently, the 480th EFS works closely alongside Romanian, Italian, and German fighter aircraft also conducting the enhanced Air Policing mission, demonstrating the Alliance’s expert ability to work with seamless interoperability and cohesion.

The 480th EFS brought many different units to Fetesti Air Base to support the F-16 Fighting Falcons, including maintenance, communication, and civil engineer experts. Each unit has an important role to play for the NATO-enhanced Air Policing mission. The communications flight ensures that networks are up and running, which provides intelligence the ability to collect critical information. Maintainers are needed to ensure that the aircraft continues to efficiently perform the NATO mission, troubleshooting problems quickly to maintain readiness and quick turnarounds for any flights that need to respond to an alert call. Members of the 480th EFS Civil Engineer Squadron also ensure that the safety of all members on base is a top priority, with firefighters and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen (EOD) on call 24/7 to respond to any and every emergency. Security Forces Airmen also continuously patrol the flight line and watch over the aircraft day and night.

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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot from the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, prepares to take off at the 86th Air Base, Romania, March 1, 2022.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot from the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, prepares to take off at the 86th Air Base, Romania, March 1, 2022. The ability to deploy air forces at short notice to host airbases or austere locations across NATO’s European area of responsibility is essential for a timely and coordinated response for any contingency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

The 480 EFS close partnership with their Romanians hosts fosters a common understanding between Allies, strengthening the ability of the Alliance to defend NATO airspace at any time. Additionally, the close relationships made amongst Allies are more than operationally relevant, reaching a personal level of partnership and mutual determination. These genuine relationships are important in protecting the skies across the Alliance, on an operational level in conducting the enhanced Air Policing mission, but also on a personal level in the resolved determination to defend the airspace and populations of the Alliance. NATO air policing has been an enduring peacetime collective defensive mission for over 60 years, ensuring the integrity of NATO Alliance Member’s Airspace.

The 480th Fighter Squadron (480th FS), nicknamed the Warhawks, is an active United States Air Force unit operating the General Dynamics F-16CJ Fighting Falcon. The 480 FS assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany is the only United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa flying unit performing the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) mission. On 29 July 2020, it was announced by the Department of Defense that the 480th FS would be re-positioned from Spangdahlem to Aviano Air Base, Italy as part of a plan to withdraw forces from Germany. The plans to move 480th FS have been put on hold as the new Biden administration looks to review the previous administration’s plans to move the squadron to Italy.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, takes off from the 86th AB, Romania, March 1, 2022.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, takes off from the 86th AB, Romania, March 1, 2022. Strengthening relationships with NATO allies ensures that allied air forces can work together to promote peace within the European theater while fostering support and interoperability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

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