During the two-week training period – that also serves as preparation and familiarisation for the upcoming Arctic Challenge Exercise in the High North – Dutch F-35s and Belgian F-16s flew combined missions with Norwegian and United States F-35 fighter jets.
“Integration of NATO air assets to strengthen interoperability and hence deliver high-end, credible air power is a cornerstone of our success as a combined fighting force,” said Lieutenant Colonel Trond “Matrix” Haugens, leader of 332 squadron based at Ørland. “The integration training we execute from Ørland Air Base these days with our Belgian and Dutch allies is key to building the trust and confidence needed in honing our abilities and make best use of our equipment. We build on each other’s strengths of both 4th and 5th generation fighter jets and further develop our common tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) – in practice, we develop our patterns of interaction in order to generate true combat power,” concluded Lieutenant Colonel Haugens.
“On a daily basis, Belgian F-16s integrated with F-35As from our Allies Norway, the Netherlands and the United States. Our pilots flew training sorties allowing them to learn all about accomplishing complicated mission sets complemented by the new capabilities of 5th generation F-35 and its sensors, said Major ‘Gunny’, commander of the Belgian F-16 detachment “Asgard Falcon” at Ørland. “The Norwegian Air Force and 132 Air Wing have been a great host for this training deployment. The availability of large airspace, as well as ideal planning facilities and infrastructure enable the joint participants to focus on details and sharpen their skillsets at a very high tactical level. This unique cooperation clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of an integrated combat force between 4th and 5th generation aircraft and greatly enhances the readiness of our personnel and material. Moreover, for many of the Belgians this is their first exposure to a 5th generation Air Force and a first taste of the future,” ‘Gunny’ added. The Belgian Air Force will also receive F-35 fighter jets to replace the existing F-16 fleet.
The combined flying training provides an opportunity to enhance skills of pilots in the air and controllers at the Norwegian control and reporting centre. During the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE), the air controllers – and their Finnish and Swedish counterparts – will have to perform challenging tasks coordinating Allied and Swedish aircraft during cross-border operations in Finland, Sweden and Norway.
ACE is a multinational joint exercise organized by the Nordic Cooperation of Finland Norway and Sweden. Finland has the lead in the 2023 iteration that runs from May 29 to June 9, 2023. The aim of ACE is to strengthen the participants’ national defence, explore common synergies in a multinational context and facilitate common solutions for challenges in combined joint operations.