USAF F-16s, KC-135s, MC-130Js, and MQ-9s linked up with U.S. Navy aircraft and ships and support from U.S. Space Command as part of a large-scale exercise in the Black Sea on July 22.
The mission in Eastern Europe, with Russia watching, “was designed to train U.S. forces to integrate, operate, and communicate while executing all-domain operations,” U.S. Air Forces in Europe said in a release.
For the exercise, F-16s from Aviano Air Base, Italy, trained with advanced, long-range AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles—a cruise missile used to destroy “high-value, well-defended targets,” according to USAFE. The F-16s were supported by KC-135s from the 100th Aerial Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England, and contractor-owned and contractor-operated MQ-9s from the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2, which has been forward deployed to Estonia.
Additionally, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and the 6th Fleet, currently conducting Exercise Sea Breeze with Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea, participated with the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Porter and a P-8 Poseidon. The special operations MC-130J from the 352nd Special Operations Wing at Mildenhall practiced inserting forces as part of the training mission.
The same day, the Russian Ministry of Defense posted a video claiming to show an intercept of a P-8 in the Black Sea region, adding that its forces also identified a U.S. U-2 and a German P-3. USAFE said in a statement that no USAF aircraft came in contact with any Russian aircraft on July 22.
“Conducting operations in the Black Sea ensures stability throughout the region,” USAFE boss Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian said in a release. “Our combined presence strengthens relationships with our allies and partners while sending a message to any adversary that we are committed to collective defense and ready to respond in a complex security environment.”
Digital Editor Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory contributed to this report.