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Arctic Challenge Exercise 21 concludes: mission successful

A Swedish air force JAS-39 Gripen, left, flies in formation with a U.S. Air Force F-16 assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during the Arctic Challenge Exercise 21 training event over Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 16, 2021. The aim of ACE21 is to exercise and train participating units, from Norway, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany in planning, command and control, orchestration and conduct of air operations in the Nordic airspace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

A Swedish air force JAS-39 Gripen, left, flies in formation with a U.S. Air Force F-16 assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during the Arctic Challenge Exercise 21 training event over Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 16, 2021. The aim of ACE21 is to exercise and train participating units, from Norway, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany in planning, command and control, orchestration and conduct of air operations in the Nordic airspace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

Two U.S. Air Force F-16 fly in formation over LuleƄ, Sweden, June 14, 2021. Exercises like the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 give USAF participants the opportunity to build partnerships, train with Nordic Allies, and maximize interoperability within the Nordic region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

Two U.S. Air Force F-16 fly in formation over LuleƄ, Sweden, June 14, 2021. Exercises like the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 give USAF participants the opportunity to build partnerships, train with Nordic Allies, and maximize interoperability within the Nordic region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 from the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, takes off from the runway at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 8, 2021. Airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing deployed to Sweden to participate in the Norwegian-led Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 with  NATO and nordic allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 from the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, takes off from the runway at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 8, 2021. Airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing deployed to Sweden to participate in the Norwegian-led Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 with NATO and nordic allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load inert weapons onto F-16 at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 8, 2021. Ammo troops assembled GBU-12 bombs, as well as other inert weapons, which were then loaded onto the aircraft for the purpose of training and target practice throughout the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load inert weapons onto F-16 at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 8, 2021. Ammo troops assembled GBU-12 bombs, as well as other inert weapons, which were then loaded onto the aircraft for the purpose of training and target practice throughout the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load ammunition into a U.S. Air Force F-16 at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 8, 2021. During the Arctic Challenge Exercise 21, 52nd MXS Airmen prepped the aircraft for over 450 sorties flown. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load ammunition into a U.S. Air Force F-16 at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, June 8, 2021. During the Arctic Challenge Exercise 21, 52nd MXS Airmen prepped the aircraft for over 450 sorties flown. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

KALLAX AIR BASE, Sweden --

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing spent the past month at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, to participate in the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021, which took place June 2-18.

Over the course of 45 days, members from the 52nd FW prepared, set up assets and tackled the obstacles that come with moving over 300 Airmen to another country for a multinational exercise.

“The Swedish air force has been amazing in their support to our mission,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shaun Loomis, 480th Fighter Squadron commander. “This deployment to Kallax AB has provided the 480th with the opportunity to train to mission sets which are normally limited in Germany due to airspace and range constraints.”

During the exercise the 480th FS flew around 450 sorties, mostly integrated with Swedish and other allied air forces.

Additionally, the opportunity to integrate alongside several European allies and partners bolstered the force’s readiness to fight and respond as a coalition, Loomis said.

For the first time, this year’s iteration included Norway’s F-35 Lightning II, which brought unique 5th generation Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses and Large Force Exercise training opportunities.
Arctic Challenge Exercise 2021 garnered 3,000 personnel from across various air forces building interoperability between Nordic NATO allies and partners, with 60 fighter aircraft and 10 support aircraft participating.

“There is a massive air space complex with very few limitations and restrictions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Epperson, 52nd Fighter Wing commander. “We have been able to seamlessly integrate into these missions and achieve much more than any of us could achieve individually as nations.”

On June 15, U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, visited the Norrbotten Wing at Kallax Air Base to learn about ACE21 from the Swedish perspective and observe the 480th FS integration with partner nations.

“This is a great opportunity to work with some very important partners,” said Harrigian. “There have been a myriad of opportunities with respect to who we are training with and how we train, and ultimately it gets us comfortable in operating in this part of the world.”

The mission of ACE21 is to provide participating units to integrate in training scenarios against a high-end adversary, with all possible aspects of air operations, including offensive and defensive scenarios consisting of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

“The teamwork and the partners that Arctic Challenge pulled together is a strong group of nations that will work hard to ensure that this region remains secure and stable,” said Harrigian.