Aerial Warfare

US Air Force Aircraft Arrive in Lithuania Poland Romania for Astral Knight 24 Exercise

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US Air Force Aircraft Arrive in Lithuania Poland Romania for Astral Knight 24 Exercise

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U.S. Air Force Airmen and aircraft, based in the European theater, kicked off exercise Astral Knight 24 at forward operating bases in Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. AK24 is U.S. European Command’s capstone integrated air and missile defense exercise focused on development and employment of the theater-wide, coalition IAMD architecture. The exercise will feature live flying and simulated combat scenarios, concentrated in Poland and the Baltic states. A total of six NATO Allies are participating in AK24 to include: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, U.K., and the U.S. There will also be observers from Denmark and Greece. Exercise participants will focus on testing the deployment and sustainment of IAMD assets and capabilities, while exercising defense plans for distributed air operations through the ACE concept.

“Exercises like Astral Knight are designed to enhance maneuverability and integration between U.S. Allies and partners, all of which are foundational to our agile combat employment strategy throughout Europe and Africa. Astral Knight will continue to strengthen Ally and partner interoperability while validating our integrated air and missile defense capabilities,” said Lt. Gen. Johnny Lamontagne, deputy commander of United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.

 U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Generation Squadron arrive at Câmpia Turzii, Romania, for exercise Astral Knight 24, May 10, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Raya Feltner)
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 555th Fighter Generation Squadron arrive at Câmpia Turzii, Romania, for exercise Astral Knight 24, May 10, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Raya Feltner)

Airmen and aircraft from the U.S. Air National Guard also arrived in Europe to support AK24. The exercise will host more than 50 U.S. aircraft, including:
Royal Air Force Lakenheath: F-35 Lightning II
Spangdahlem Air Base: F-16 Fighting Falcon
Aviano Air Base: F-16 Fighting Falcon
Royal Air Force Mildenhall: KC-135 Stratotanker
Aviano Air Base: HH-60G Pave Hawk
Kansas Air National Guard: KC-135 Stratotanker
Whiteman Air Force Base: MQ-9 Reaper
Grand Forks Air Force Base: RQ-4 Global Hawk

The exercise will also demonstrate USAFE-AFAFRICA’s ability to transfer operational control of assets and personnel to NATO Allied Air Command. Collaboration with NATO Allies strengthens the organization’s collective defense capabilities across the European theater. Through early collaboration and integration of Allied air and missile defense efforts, including efforts like AK24, USAFE-AFAFRICA and NATO nations deter aggression by potential adversaries and remain ready to address common threats. AK24 falls under the Department of Defense’s broader exercise program dubbed the Large Scale Global Exercise 2024. The program encompasses a range of joint and multinational military activities to demonstrate the U.S.’s robust global presence, as well as the cohesion of enduring global alliances and partnerships devoted to security and stability.

US Air Force Aircraft Arrive in Lithuania Poland Romania for Astral Knight 24 Exercise
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 555th Fighter Generation Squadron arrives at Câmpia Turzii, Romania, for exercise Astral Knight 24, May 10, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Raya Feltner)

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