Mildenhall, Lakenheath airmen take part in Arctic Challenge exercise
Stars and Stripes
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Airmen from RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath traveled to Norway for aerial combat training with several European nations.
Arctic Challenge brought together NATO forces from the U.S., United Kingdom and Norway with those of Sweden and Finland. According to a release, the forces practiced war-fighting simulations over Norway, and airmen from Mildenhall used the exercise to practice a simulated deployment.
“During this exercise, we will face almost every scenario that could be seen in any war or conflict,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Rich Stringer, 494th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations from Lakenheath, was quoted as saying in a news release.
For Mildenhall, the exercise provided an opportunity to train in a crowded airspace, Capt. Tim Gerne, 100th Air Refueling Wing director of operations for the Arctic Challenge exercise, said in a telephone interview. Gerne’s unit provided mid-air refueling to planes in a “fairly small chunk of sky” filled with more than 50 planes, he said.
“It required us to ensure that the airspace we were using was deconflicted,” Gerne said. “In order to keep it safe, you’ve got to ensure deconfliction by time, distance, or altitude.”
The exercise, which ended on Thursday, was a boon for the Norwegian military which finds it difficult to stage larger, aerial exercises without international cooperation.
“(Our) air force has, in periods, had the need to train (in) bigger scenarios with more aircraft, and this is difficult in Norway with only our own planes at (our) disposal,” Col. Baid Solheim, Main Air Station Bodø base commander, said in the release. “Before the cross-border training, we had to deploy to foreign, far-away countries to fly against other types of aircraft. (Now) we fly directly from Bodø. In this way, it’s very efficient in costs.”