Fighter jet operations ramp up during basewide Spangdahlem exercise
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Against a backdrop of rolling hills and farmer’s fields in this bucolic corner of southwest Germany, the U.S. Air Force is practicing for worst-case scenarios.
The base wrapped up a two-week exercise Thursday night, during which flying ramped up day and night. Loud sirens signaled for airmen to take cover under desks, among other training drills.
It was the largest exercise staged at Spangdahlem in more than 18 months, but base officials said it wasn’t in response to any emerging or specific threat.
Rather, it’s one of many ways the Air Force trains to be ready for a gambit of possible scenarios, from defending the base from attack to quickly launching aircraft to help a NATO ally in distress, officials said.
“Whether we’re here, in Korea, or in Florida, we’re always making sure we can defend the base from any adversary, any sort of aggression and also support our allies,” said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Beck, a member of the 52nd Fighter Wing Inspector General’s office exercise inspection team.
The exercise featured a lot of air power, combining F-16 fighter jets from two squadrons, Spangdahlem’s 480th Fighter Squadron and those of the visiting 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
The 112th is an Ohio Air National Guard unit deployed to Europe from Toledo.
The unit brought with it more than 300 airmen and 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons, wrapping up a two-month deployment to Estonia with a few additional weeks of training at Spangdahlem, said Lt. Col. Greg Barasch, the unit’s commander.
“This kind of brings it all together for us. We get to work with a lot of regional partners, NATO allies” in Estonia, Barasch said. “And then we get to come here and work with a U.S. unit and actually tie together some of our mission sets to maintain that readiness.”
While in Estonia, the Ohio Air National Guard trained at Amari Air Base, flying sorties with partners in the region. The deployment was part of a theater security package under Operation Atlantic Resolve, to act as a deterrent and reassure NATO allies nervous about Russian intentions.
The Ohio pilots, about 60 percent of which are part-time airmen, were back in the air almost immediately when they arrived in Germany, figuring out quickly how to train with the Spangdahlem fliers, Barasch said.
Maintainers from both squadrons supported the busy flying schedule, gaining important lessons in the process, they said.
During the second week of the exercise, “we are generating more than half the normal sorties that we would produce in a month,” said Capt. Jessica Watts, 480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in-charge.
“By putting so much stress on the organization to see how well we perform, as leaders it allows us to see ‘Hey, I have an issue here,’” she said. “You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.”