A dozen F-16s from the 8th Fighter Wing departed Kunsan AB, South Korea, for Alaska, to participate in Red Flag-Alaska 14-3, a joint air combat exercise that runs through Aug. 22. About 200 airmen deployed with the jets on Aug. 12, according to a base release. Staging from Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the Kunsan F-16s and the airplanes from the six other participating combat units will fly on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, engaging in a range of expeditionary combat scenarios. Although postured for combat on the Korean Peninsula, RF-A gives Kunsan’s airmen the opportunity to practice in a realistic threat environment, said Col. Ken Ekman, 8th FW commander. “It’s some of the best ranges, best flying, and best training we get to do, so it’s a great opportunity to go out there and practice,” added Maj. Dean Laansma, assistant director of operations for Kunsan’s 80th Fighter Squadron. Also participating, according to Eielson’s website, are: C-130s from Yokota AB, Japan; F-16s from Misawa AB, Japan, and the Wisconsin Air National Guard; KC-135s from the Alaska Air Guard; Marine Corps F/A-18s from California; and Navy EA-18Gs from Washington.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.