480th FS participates in multi-national exercise over North Sea

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Ali Stewart
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing participated in a Point Blank 21-02, a multinational air superiority exercise across various air spaces in the European theater April 6-9.

More than 50 aircraft from both U.S. and the Royal Netherlands Air Force took to the skies over the North Sea for the exercise to sharpen combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency in support of the NATO alliance.

“Through our continued partnership, we are demonstrating the ability of allies and partners to seamlessly operate with one another across all domains in challenging and demanding scenarios,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “This ultimately makes us experts at what we do, which is deliver air superiority anywhere across the globe.”

Point Blank, an annual NATO exercise last conducted in May of 2020, allowed participating units to perform high-end fight scenarios over the vastness of the North Sea.

Among the American aircraft participating in the four-day exercise were F-16 Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Air Base, KC-135 Stratotankers from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, NATO E-3 Sentries, F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, England, and F-35 Lightning IIs from the Netherlands.

During exercises like these, aircraft split into teams to represent enemy aircraft and ally aircraft. These teams are known as “red air” and “blue air.”

“It was definitely a departure from our normal day-to-day operations,” said 1st Lt. Bjorn Nielsen, 480th Fighter Squadron pilot. “We integrated with other F-16s, F-15Cs, F-15Es, Eurofighters and Dutch F-35s, plus tanker support and other assets. We had about two dozen aircraft on the ‘blue’ side alone, which is more aircraft than we fly in an entire day, not to mention all of the red air we faced.”

The exercise was a successful demonstration of integration with NATO partners, according to Nielsen.

“It was really neat to hack the mission with our NATO partners,” Nielsen said. “The exercise scenario was based on an Article 5 invocation, in which case the response would certainly require a test of our ability to integrate with them. This exercise showed me that we can do that very well, with relatively little friction.”

Training with joint and combined allies and partners increases lethality and enhances interoperability, allowing our NATO forces to counter military aggression and coercion by sharing responsibilities for common defense.