US, Poland integrate flying capabilities
By Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 02, 2014
LASK AIR BASE, Poland --
Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces integrated their capabilities through training sorties in a joint theater capacity, April 1, 2014, for the first time since the arrival of U.S. aircraft and personnel to the U.S. Air Force Aviation Detachment 1 here.
While today is the first day of joint theater training sorties, Polish and American pilots have been taking steps toward flying together since members of the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, arrived here March 13. From day one, the 555th Fighter Squadron integrated with Polish counterparts during ground training, briefings, academics and preparations to begin the flying training.
The training is in line with NATO objectives and defense responsibilities to U.S. allies.
"Bilateral training is essential for future operations within NATO responsibilities," said Lt. Col. John Peterson, 555th FS commander. "When we execute operations in possible real-world situations, we need to have trained with our fellow NATO nations. You want to develop those tactics, techniques and procedures beforehand to achieve a truly cohesive combat capability with our Polish counterparts."
Since both Aviano's 555th FS and Łask's 10th Tactical Squadron employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, some of the training will focus on communication effectiveness and familiarization of techniques.
"Today, we're beginning to integrate the Polish into our training with tactical intercepts," said Capt. Kirby Sanford, 555th FS chief of training. "We take two Polish F-16s and two U.S. F-16s and fly in a four-ship. We go in and tactically intercept any unknown aircraft and try to identify them. It's a very basic mission set, but it's going to allow us to work through any communication or airspace barriers we may have."
The scenarios become more complex as the training continues throughout the week. To complete the more advanced objectives, the allied force must work seamlessly while airborne.
"We're going to start integrating a challenging, dynamic situation with multiple adversaries trying to attack a single point, and our objective with the Polish will be to try and work together to defend that point," said Sanford.
Reflecting upon previous training missions with NATO allies, Sanford realizes influential lessons learned through bilateral integration.
"I flew with Bulgarian aircraft in 2012 and with the Portuguese F-16s a month ago. There are so many lessons learned, and each one provides insight to how we are able to effectively pick up our entire operation and be ready to train or fight within a matter of days in a different NATO country," said Sanford. "The most important piece of information I've learned is that each country brings something to the fight. In my opinion, that's what makes our coalition efforts so effective."
The Polish air force implemented the use of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft to their inventory in the last ten years. Łask's 32nd Tactical Air Base commander relays his excitement to train with U.S. forces, due to what his base has to offer during rotations to Poland.
"The first time we had interaction with the U.S. in 2004, our position was completely different than it is now," said Polish air force Col. Ireneusz Nowak, 32nd TAB commander. "At that time, we were just observers of the American fighters, and now we have the ability to fully participate."
The Av-Det sustains an enduring U.S. presence in Poland and continues to train with Polish armed forces during quarterly rotations of aircraft. C-130J Super Hercules aircrew and support staff are currently training with Polish counterparts at Powidz Air Base, Poland.