F-15, MiGs match up for exercise in Romania


European edition, Wednesday, May 2, 2007

MIHAIL KOGALNICEACU AIR BASE, Romania — Romanian air force Lt. Cmdr. Moise Daniel had been watching the F-15 Eagle for years from afar, but never imagined he’d one day have the opportunity to dogfight the American fighter jet.

“I’ve only seen this aircraft on the Discovery Channel, and I never thought I would get to fly against it,” the 33-year-old MiG-21 pilot said after a morning of air-to-air combat training. “It was an unbelievable opportunity where I learned a lot from them.”

Daniel was one of the dozens of Romanian air force airmen who participated in the two-week Exercise Sniper Lance, which saw approximately 200 England-based airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the 48th Fighter Wing deploy to this former Eastern Bloc state.

Two RAF Mildenhall-based KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling jets and a dozen RAF Lakenheath-based F-15 Eagles arrived at this base near the Black Sea town of Constanta on April 20 and will depart later this week.

Exercise Sniper Lance comes on the heels of training between the Romanian Air Force and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe in 2006.

It’s also part of a growing military relationship between the two nations that will eventually include the air base being home to a U.S. Joint Task Force run primarily by the Army with support from the Air Force, according to Col. Steven Dreyer, USAFE liaison officer to U.S Army Europe.

“The Romanians have been nothing but excellent partners,” Dreyer said.

Daniel, who participated in last year’s exercise with the Spangdahlem, Germany-based 22nd Fighter Expeditionary Squadron, said the training was intended to be more educational than competitive.

“This is not a competition. We’re here to learn from each other,” he said. “Clearly, the MiG-21 has no chance against the F-15 in a dogfight. So we try to do other things that surprise the F-15, things to make the training more interesting and valuable.”

One of Daniel’s American counterparts, Capt. David Anderson, 28, Bellville, Texas, concurred.

“The small size and their speed during acceleration make them (MiG-21s) a formidable adversary,” Anderson said. “The aircraft have different capabilities, and that makes the training realistic. In real combat, I’m not going to fight another F-15.”

Anderson also boasted on the training environment.

“We have from the surface up to 55,000 feet to fly, which provides us a combatlike environment,” Anderson said.

Romanian Air Force Maj. Cristian Popovici said playing host to the F-15s is an invaluable opportunity for pilots from both air forces.

“Everyone knows about the F-15, but the MiG can still be a powerful weapon,” he said. “It’s small and quick, and if it’s not seen the first time it can be deadly.”

Lt. Cmd. Moise Daniel, a Romanian MiG-21 Lancer pilot, talks with media Tuesday at Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, Romania. “Tomorrow will be the last day of flying and everybody is sad,” said Daniel who likened the experience to a dream come true.

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