US military aircraft to make historic stop at former Soviet air base

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — U.S. military aircraft from Germany will make a historic stop Tuesday at a former Soviet base that’s part of a major U.S.-led military exercise in the Baltics.

Three C-130Js are scheduled to arrive at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, making them the first U.S. Air Force aircraft to land at the newly renovated installation, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa said.

The aircraft are from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The planes are bringing equipment and about 92 airmen from the 435th Contingency Response Group to participate in the Air Force’s portion of Saber Strike 2014. The aircraft will also support the ground forces of the exercise with cargo drops at Adazi Training Area, USAFE said in a news release.

U.S. Army Europe has led the annual Saber Strike exercise since 2011. This year’s exercise — a two-week event — is focused on promoting interoperability with regional partners and improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions, according to a U.S. European Command news release.

Another NATO exercise is also taking place in the region. Forces from 13 countries and NATO are participating in Exercise BALTOPS 2014, which started last week. The exercise aims to improve maritime security in the Baltic Sea.

This year’s drills in the region come amid strained relations between NATO and Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. Russia last week launched a military exercise in Kaliningrad in response to the NATO exercises in the Baltics.



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