Fighter crews from across US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa gathered at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, in late December for a five-day training effort to practice suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) operations. Exercise Iron Hand 15-2 is unique because it is a US-only air combat exercise in Europe, said Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander of 3rd Air Force and the 17th Expeditionary Air Force, whom also participated in the exercise by flying a F-15E sortie. It also helps build interoperability among USAF’s forward based tactical fighter units, he added. Participating units came from RAF Lakenheath, England; Aviano AB, Italy; and Germany to practice SEAD skills along with Spangdahlem’s 480th Fighter Squadron. “We don’t often get to plan, brief, fly, and debrief face to face with our fellow USAFE fighter warriors,” said Lt. Col David Berkland, the 480th FS commander. The F-16s of the 480th FS are the only SEAD assets based in US European Command, and it was important that all three squadrons train together to sharpen skills and improve air readiness and combat capability, Roberson noted.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.