Saber Airmen execute base defense, ACE during Astral Knight, Saber Knight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sydney Franklin

The 52nd Fighter Wing completed their readiness exercise Saber Knight in tandem with the United States Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Exercise Astral Knight 24 here and at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen May 8-15.

The linked and simultaneous exercises tested the wing’s ability to execute air base defense at home station and at an Agile Combat Employment location as part of multi-nation, theater-wide Integrated Air and Missile Defense operations during a regional contingency.

“The 52nd FW’s capability to successfully execute two exercises at the same time–-one at the base level and one at the component-command level–demonstrates Saber Nation’s robust readiness for any problem alongside NATO partners,” said Col. Kevin Crofton, 52nd FW commander. “Spangdahlem is fit to fight in any conflict thrown our way.”

The exercises placed Spangdahlem in a contested and operationally degraded environment, pushing Saber Airmen to rapidly generate F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft sorties in support of Astral Knight 24 objectives while concurrently defending the base and recovering from simulated threats, such as cyber, drone, missile and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.

“Being confronted by a myriad of problems pushed our Airmen to step outside of their comfort zone and come together as a team,” said Crofton. “From maintainers to security forces to medical and every unit in between, the wing as a whole stepped up to project airpower and secure Spangdahlem, no matter the scenario they faced.”

Spangdahlem was not the extent of the exercise’s footprint, as the wing also tested its ACE capabilities by executing a short-notice deployment to Geilenkirchen. Saber Airmen set up the base as a forward operating location to conduct part of the wing’s contingency mission in response to a scenario where their home station was too constrained to fully support regional IAMD operations.

“Watching them (Saber Airmen) come up with unique ways on how to get to a new place, how to get set up, how to continue to turnover aircraft, etc. was fantastic experience,” said Capt. Christopher Chidgey, 480th Fighter Generation Squadron F-16 pilot and programs and plans deputy. “It was really cool seeing everybody get out of their comfort zones and have that ‘mission-ready Airman kind of mindset.”

U.S. Allies rely on the 52nd FW to rapidly and effectively respond to a potential crisis in their region. By conducting regular and challenging exercises such as Astral Knight and Saber Knight, the wing proves that Saber Airmen are ready to project airpower and execute base defense and ACE operations at a moment’s notice.